Pennine Way – Gunstone to Byrness

Gunstone to Byrness-624th October 2017 – 14.9 miles

We parked near the cattle grid on a minor road over the moors, where we had turned round yesterday, and headed straight uphill. Not nearly so boggy, but the weather was a little damp and misty. We followed the wall/fence line for a good way. I was taking note in case it got mistier on the return journey!Gunstone to Byrness-2

Once at the top of the hill, we turned north-west, still following the boundary and the edge of the forest. Now we were on a plateau, it did become boggier in places where it had been well trodden, but still not too bad. It is called Black Hill (again!) which is always a bad sign …

Further along, part of the forest alongside the Pennine Way had been felled and there were occasional fallen trees along the route. The roots loomed over us. Some trees had fallen across the path and we clambered over or under some. Others, we had to edge past as the soil under where the roots had been had turned to what can only be described as gloop! (I learned afterwards that this section has always had a bad reputation, even without the forestry works, and some avoid it, as we did on the return journey).

It was with some relief that we reached the forestry road and followed that for a short while, until the Pennine Way was signposted off to the left. “Good job I noticed that,” I remarked, as it had looked a straight route. Sure enough, the path ran parallel to the forestry road. It was difficult and overgrown and eventually led us back on to the forestry road, where other walkers had obviously also had enough and headed back to the gravel surface. There was one other loop like this which we avoided.Gunstone to Byrness-7

The weather had brightened up and it was good to be able to see the colours in the forest and the view to the hills in the north. The forestry road continued all the way to Blakhopeburnhaugh, where there was a small car park. We decided to carry on a bit longer, following the path along the river, turning round where the way met a road at a campsite on the edge of Byrness. Gunstone to Byrness-5

We returned along the forest road and actually met another person, walking the Pennine Way! That’s the only walker we met in 4 days!

We kept to the forest road, going cautiously past the forestry worker piling up logs, and followed the forest road down to the country road where we had parked the car. Gunstone to Byrness-8

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Pennine Way: Bellingham to Gunstone

Pennine Way23 October 2017 – 15.4 miles

We parked again in Bellingham near the bridge and followed the river into town. The Way was not signed at all from here and we initially headed up the wrong road before checking the map. Cycle routes are well signed here so why they couldn’t at least have added an acorn somewhere, I don’t know. Still, it gave us the chance to see this rather nice Harvest cross outside a church.Pennine Way-2

We headed uphill on a road for quite a way before heading off on a farm track then slightly uphill and onto moorland. There is a choice of route here – we went for the one further uphill, hoping it might be drier. It wasn’t too bad, certainly not compared with previous days, and was straightforward to follow. We followed the course of an old mining railway down to the road. It was a bit of an effort to get through the gate on the other side without mishap, but we managed.  Pennine Way-6

However, I think the adventure of getting round the puddle distracted us from the map and we headed off along the track until we came to a fork, where we checked the map and retraced our steps! The correct path was not obvious from the gateway, but became clearer once we were on it. The guidebook says to head towards grouse butts, but we didn’t see any. Pennine Way-8

The path through the moorland heather was narrow but clearly defined – so unlike the heavily-used and eroded paths further south on the Pennine Way. It was wet in places, but solid.  Strangely, the 1:50000 OS map shows a public footpath routed to the west of where it shows the diamonds of the Pennine Way, whereas the 1:25000 map shows the Pennine Way being contiguous with the footpath! Our GPS track shows us following the diamonds of the 1:50000 version and it was the only path visible on the ground.Pennine Way-9

We continued on to where the Way meets a minor road across the moors at a cattle grid, marked on some maps as ‘Gunstone’. From here we could follow tracks and roads back into Bellingham. It felt like a bit of a slog on the road but preferable (and twice the speed) of returning by the same route over the hills. PW Bellingham to Gunstone

Pennine Way: Bellingham to Warks Burn

Pennine Way-822 October 2017 – 12.2 miles

We parked on the outskirts of Bellingham on a clear, bright Sunday morning, admiring the bridge over the River North Tyne and this building, which must once have been a bridge-keeper’s lodge.

Pennine Way

We walked along the road for a while, until the Way headed uphill over fields of sheep. It was rough and a bit wet, but nothing like as boggy as yesterday had been. However, on top of the hill – flat and peaty – bog! There were waymarkers and a few boards across the worst part. Of course, the trouble with boards is that everyone gets on and off at similar points so that in turn becomes bog!

Pennine Way-9

We then turned along a more solid track, past a radio mast on the ridge which we had been able to see from a long way off yesterday. Again, from this vantage point, it looked like we had the map spread out in front of us. We came down off the ridge through a rocky path, and past some old farms, one of which rejoiced in the name of Shitlington Hall, where we said hello to a cheery farmer. We were surprised to have to ford a small stream as there is no mention of this in the guidebook.

Pennine Way-7

We headed down to a stream (the Houxty Burn – another great name)and followed this a short way, catching a brief blue flash of a kingfisher. Across the bridge, we headed steeply uphill, and had lunch sitting on a fallen tree.

Today was far less boggy than yesterday, and seemed to have more variety which helped. It was still nice to have the next section along a quiet country lane, up to a house, Lowstead, where the Way has been slightly deviated to go around the newly renovated garden which, presumably, it used to go through! Who can blame them for that? We didn’t have a rest on their garden seat though!Pennine Way-3

A few more fields brought us to the footbridge over Warks Burn, our turnaround point.

On the way back, we saw a mother and small son sitting on another seat outside Lowstead, the only “walkers” (we assumed they had been!) we met all day. We deviated slightly on the way back to walk further along the road and have it easier underfoot.PW-Bellingham-to-Warks-Burn

Pennine Way: Hadrian’s Wall to Warks Burn

Pennine Way-321st October 2017 – 14.8 miles

We stayed at a hotel in Chollerford, having been booked in there on Thursday evening when we were told our cottage in Bellingham was double booked! At least the letting agent sorted it out before we left home …

We started out planning to park at Housesteads, but then worked out how much it would cost for the full day (priced at 3 hours, then every additional hour! It would have been well over £10). We found a lay-by further along the road, conveniently opposite Rapishaw Gap where the Pennine Way heads north away from Hadrian’s Wall. It was hard work heading uphill, as I am just about recovered from a cough/virus  but it was a steep hill!

Pennine Way-1

Rapishaw Gap – the Pennine Way heads north

The view from Hadrian’s Wall is impressive as you could see the landscape and our route laid out in front of us. We headed downhill, past some noisy cows, and across a muddy field, picking our way around the wettest parts. We realised we had headed a bit to the west and corrected a little to meet the farm track at the right place. (On the way back, we managed to follow the route across this part and it was better)

Pennine Way-2

Boggy underfoot

We headed into the woods, pleased that it would be drier underfoot – how wrong can you be? A short way into the woods and the ground became a quagmire. It was worse than out on the fields and common land as you were hemmed in by close-growing conifers with hardly any room for an alternative route. I used my trekking pole to test the ground in front of me – I poked one firm looking piece of green grass and it wobbled! It was a relief to get out onto the boggy moorland again.

It felt fairly empty and bleak, with not much to look at, apart from this old tree-filled sheep fold. It was quite nice to look back and see the ridge that Hadrian’s Wall runs along. We did say it was no wonder the Romans hadn’t come this far north, especially in those sandals (yes, I know …).

Pennine Way-4

Group of trees in a sheepfold – a landmark in bare moorland

The next section of wood wasn’t nearly as bad as the first, and we stopped here for lunch. It had quite a creepy feel about it though, and I was rather glad not be alone. That’s not like me, but I really didn’t enjoy today at all! What a relief to get to the road, by a house rejoicing in the name of ‘Willowbog‘, which was a bonsai nursery. The next section of wood had a tarmac byway. Normally, this would look rather boring, but it was dry and solid.

Pennine Way-7

Byway near Broadpool Common

We got to the bridge over Warks Burn and turned around as it was 2:30 p.m. which was our cut off time. We were only a little short of our target which was the farm and road about half a mile away, but it had been slow and heavy going.

Pennine Way-5

Warks Burn

Unfortunately, there was no alternative route back. It didn’t seem quite as bad returning – perhaps knowing what was coming helped – and we didn’t pick our way round but just trudged through the mud! It was just getting dark when we reached the car.

PW Hadrian's Wall to Warks Burn

 

Wales Coast Path: Cemaes to Amlwch

WCP Cemaes to Amlwch-2

View to Porth Padrig

13th August 2017 – 14.5 miles

Today was a circular walk – we didn’t even think about buses on a Sunday! – so we decided to start and finish in Cemaes, being a rather prettier spot to return to then Amlwch (sorry, Amlwch).

We paid to stay in the car park down by the beach where we were given what is claimed to be ‘the biggest parking ticket in the world’ and noticed that Cemaes, like Moelfre yesterday, was having a Lifeboat Day. We didn’t detour into the village to see it, but we heard the drum group. We wondered if they were the group from Liverpool – they certainly looked and sounded very similar.

WCP Cemaes to Amlwch

Cemaes

The path skirted the bay, with views across to Wylfa Power Station as we gained height. We stopped for a break at Llanbadrig Point and realised we had not come very far and it might be slow going today! Soon after this we came upon Llanbadrig (St Patrick’s) Church, perched on the cliff top, which is meant to date from the 5th century.

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Llanbadrig church

The coastline from here was very rugged, on high cliffs with clear views across to the Skerries. There were also quite a few ups and downs over the headlands and into bays. The first major bay was Llanlleiana, with industrial remains and a chimney. I assumed this had something to do with the copper industry but it turns out to have been porcelain works.

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Llanlleiana porcelain works

We chatted a while to another walker who told us that the next headland was the most northerly point in Wales, so we continued there for our lunch. There is a small, rocky islet, Middle Mouse, which is a bit further north but this is the furthest north you can get without a boat! There were views across to the Isle of Man on the horizon. The headland had a strange structure which we thought was a WW2 lookout post but turns out to have been built to commemorate the coronation of Edward VII in 1902. I’m surprised it is in such a poor state of repair.

WCP Cemaes to Amlwch-6

The northernmost point of Wales

At this point, the battery in my camera gave up …

The bay at Porth Wen also had some impressive industrial archaeology, this time the remains of brick works. A few people had come to the bay on boats and were diving into the harbour.

After this, the path got easier and less rugged. A wide, level path through heather led to Bull Bay – we sat down for a drink in field of black bulls – or maybe they were cows, I didn’t look – and were very glad to see Amlwch in the near distance. I was very tired with feet like lead. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to get much closer for a while and even when we were almost there, the coast path veered off hugging the coastline, for which, I suppose, we should be grateful!

We returned to Cemaes by the A-road to Bull Bay (that was quick and easy!), then the Coast Path to Porth Wen, and finally along a lane into Cemaes only to find that the chippy is shut on a Sunday – and I had so been looking forward to eating fish and chips looking out to sea. Never mind, we had fish and chips in the hotel restaurant before heading back home. The return journey had taken us half the time of the outward and felt a lot less tiring.WCP Cemaes to Amlwch

 

Wales Coast Path: Traeth Bychan to Amlwch

Dulas Bay12 August 2017 – 13.8 miles

We parked in a convenient lay-by on the main road near Traeth Bychan. The car park by the beach was a lot busier than yesterday (Saturday, with a much better forecast!) – lots of people with boats and jet-skis.

A short walk over the headland brought us to Moelfre and the familiar sight of the lifeboat station. We walked along the rocks until we realised that the path was higher up and avoided a pile of very seaweedy boulders.

Moelfre

Walking towards Moelfre

From a distance, we could see that there was a fair, which turned out to be Lifeboat Day, so we veered off in the direction of a cake stall. We sat in a quiet spot near the old lifeboat shed to enjoy our cakes before carrying on. It got quieter once past the village, but there were still a surprising number of people out on the path (especially compared with yesterday).

Moelfre Lifeboat Day

Moelfre Lifeboat Day

We passed the memorial to the Royal Charter, which was interesting, as it is such a familiar story from Liverpool local history, and the Anglesey place names are familiar too, so it was good to visit them at last.

Royal Charter memorial

Royal Charter memorial

There was a large beach at Lligwy with a car park – not as busy as expected given the number of people on the path so far, but it became very quiet after this – followed by a walk through sand hills.

A short walk over the headland then we headed inland through fields of sheep to skirt round Dulas Bay. The north side of Dulas Bay skirted salt marsh for a while, then we had to head inland, probably to avoid the Llys Dulas estate – lots of luxury holiday cottages by the look of it!

Dulas Bay

Dulas Bay

Back on the coast we spotted a group of half a dozen seals floating in the bay below us. We then headed over some rough ground – thistles and bracken and we took a slightly wrong path for a short while. It was rather nice to get a sudden view of Port Lynas lighthouse ahead of us.

Port Lynas

Looking toward Port Lynas

Amlwch still seemed a long way off and another walker said it would be about an hour and a half which was a bit dispiriting! We didn’t check how accurate he was though. We did not detour to see the headland and lighthouse at Port Lynas but carried on. The landscape changed as we turned to the north coast of Anglesey, with whiter rocks and heather.

Wales Coast Path Anglesey

Path through the heather

The coast became more rugged with cliffs and rocky outcrops. In one inlet we came across Fynnon Eilian (St Eilian’s Well). The actual site of the well didn’t have any water running through but there was a small waterfall slightly further up the inlet. Someone had placed a statue of St Francis there.

Ffynon Eilian

The site of Ffynon Eilian

Amlwch was now in sight. We walked round the harbour, part of which is now Copper Kingdom industrial heritage centre, and then round the back of a council estate.

Amlwch harbour

Amlwch harbour

We then headed towards the town centre, hoping there would still be buses running after 6 o’clock on a Saturday! They were, but we would have to wait an hour and a half for the next one. So Plan B went into operation and we got a cab back to the car!

WCP Traeth Bychan to Amlwch

 

 

Wales Coast Path: Mariandyrys to Traeth Bychan

11 August 2017 – 14.3 miles

WCP Mariandyrys to Traeth Bychan-13

View north of Benllech

We are staying back at Kingsbridge campsite near Beaumaris. We walked from there about two miles to where we had left the path about a year ago, near Mariandyrys. The forecast wasn’t good for today and it began to drizzle a bit as we left the road. At the bottom of some wooden steps were three young rabbits. Two scampered away and stayed still in the undergrowth (still visible) but the third stayed until we were very close, even after saying “shoo!” to him.

WCP Mariandyrys to Traeth Bychan-14

Young rabbit

The path headed downhill to the beach at the eastern end of Red Wharf Bay. The tide was out and Robby decided to walk along the beach a short way, while I followed the waymarks onto the road.

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Red Wharf Bay

After a break, we both walked along the beach, then saw there were inlets ahead of us and thought we ought to head inland. We noticed we were quite a way from the road with marsh and a wide inlet between us! We skirted round the inlet where it was shallow on the beach and made our way back to the path. The tide was a long way out and not due to come in for a while so we were in no danger – I’d like to think we are sensible enough that we wouldn’t have walked on the shore if the tide had been coming in –  but it made us think about keeping an eye on the route.

WCP Mariandyrys to Traeth Bychan-9

Coastal Environment Project plaque

It was amazingly quiet. We had seen one couple returning to the car park with a dog, but otherwise there was nobody out. The weather wasn’t bad at all – odd bits of drizzle, but you would expect to have seen someone! We did meet another dog walker near the car park where we had lunch. A very picturesque spot with a river inlet, an old boat, salt marsh with gulls, egrets and the obligatory heron.

WCP Mariandyrys to Traeth Bychan-10

Afon Nodwydd

We followed the path along the shore, past some very desirable cottages. The tide was now high, but there was only one part of the shore path where you had to tread carefully crossing a wet patch on rocks. We then came to the village of Red Wharf Bay – what a surprise after a lonely morning to find a bustling pub, restaurant, car park etc. Only a small place, but it looked lovely. We had an ice cream (and returned that evening for a very good dinner in the Ship Inn).

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Ice cream in Red Wharf Bay

We now passed a very large holiday site full of static caravans at St David’s Park. It was pretty well hidden away though. A bit further along the coast and we came to the resort of Benllech, that did look to be full of static caravans! The drizzle had turned to light rain here, which was as bad as it got all day – much better than forecast and I didn’t get my overtrousers out!

WCP Mariandyrys to Traeth Bychan

View back to Benllech

Benllech was as far as we had intended to come, but it was still early. We had a walk round to look for the bus stop and bus times, etc, then continued on our way. The walk was pleasant among trees and hedgerows with views up the coast. A few more caravan parks, but nothing too intrusive.

WCP Mariandyrys to Traeth Bychan-12

Caravans!

We finished our walk at Traeth Bychan, where a few people had boats and kayaks in the water. There is a good-sized pay and display car park here, toilets and a cafe (oh yes, and static caravans!). We walked up to the main road where we could see a bus stop – and a bus shot past! 30 seconds later and we’d have seen it coming! As the buses are every half hour, we walked a bit further on to catch one on the outskirts of Benllech. This took us to Menai Bridge where another bus took us past Beaumaris, a short walk back to our tent. WCP Mariandyrys to Traeth Bychan