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

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.

WCP Mariandyrys to Traeth Bychan-8

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).

WCP Mariandyrys to Traeth Bychan-11

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

 

 

Wales Coast Path: Bangor to Caernarfon

WCP Bangor to Caernarfon4th August 2017 – 11.8 miles

I’m not really sure why we haven’t done much of our longer walks in spring or early summer, but here we are again. The forecast looked better today than it has been for a while, and Friday is a better day than Saturday to drive into North Wales in August!

We found a parking place in a semi-residential area above the suspension bridge, then walked down to the bridge, only to find there were several convenient places we could have parked down there!

We soon came across a Botanic Garden. The path lead along the coast, through the trees, including this impressive Lucombe Oak.

WCP Bangor to Caernarfon-2

Lucombe Oak

It was a very pleasant walk, with glimpses of the Menai Strait and the Britannia Bridge, though it was obscured by trees preventing a good photograph. Just past the Britannia Bridge, we found this section which we later learned is a section of the old bridge which was damaged by fire in the 70s.

WCP Bangor to Caernarfon-4

Section of the old Britannia Bridge

The next section was through National Trust woodland in Glan Faenol, where we came across this impressive (and slightly spooky) mausoleum.

WCP Bangor to Caernarfon-5

Vaynol Mausoleum

Leaving the woods, we had lunch in a field with views across the Menai Strait to Plas Newydd on Anglesey.

WCP Bangor to Caernarfon-6

View to Plas Newydd

The route then took us inland along an A-road. There were few waymarks here so it was good to find some at the junction taking us onto a cycle path. We walked this section with a local lady. She told us how she had joined Slimming World and begun to walk every day. She has since lost 5 stone and stopped taking tablets for various medical conditions. She took a fork in the path to head down towards the coast and return to Bangor while we carried straight on. We later found we should have followed her, but we walked along the main road in Y Felinheli until we met up again with the path.

WCP Bangor to Caernarfon-8

Old station building

From here, the Wales Coast Path and the cycle path are part of the Lôn Las Menai which is easy to follow, although a few Coast Path waymarkers would be nice. It was pleasant and easy walking, although again trees prevented us from getting a clear view of the sea.

WCP Bangor to Caernarfon-9

Lôn Las Menai

We followed the path into Caernarfon and round to the far side of the castle.

WCP Bangor to Caernarfon-11

Caernarfon

We crossed the river, so we can park there to begin the next leg of the walk, then took the bus back to Bangor, very close to where we had parked. WCP Bangor to Caernarfon

Wales Coast Path: Aberdaron to Penllech

wcp-aberdaron-penllech19 November 2016 – 15.4 miles

We stayed at a very nice B&B in the centre of the Llyn Peninsula. The owner was chatting to us and said they had a lot of walkers staying there, including another Ruth, who was also walking the Coast Path – yes, I follow her blog! (coastalwalker.co.uk). He very kindly also followed us as we dropped off our car from the turn around point, then drove us down to Aberdaron, so we could do a linear walk. wcp-aberdaron-penllech-2

We had a quick look at the beach and bay at Aberdaron, then set of along the cliff paths. At the next bay we saw a man heading for a dip in the sea! Now, it was a pleasant day for November … but …! wcp-aberdaron-penllech-3

We headed west along the coast, with the bulk of Bardsey Island ahead of us. We climbed over the headland to reach the tip of the Llyn Peninsula, and you could see some of the buildings on the far side of the island. wcp-aberdaron-penllech-4

The coastline became more rugged, with cliffs and jagged rocks facing the Irish Sea. From the high point of the headland, you could see for miles around the coast, up towards Anglesey, south across Cardigan Bay, and inland to the snow-capped peaks in Snowdonia. There was a small coastguard lookout here and there had been an RAF station there during the War – some concrete foundations were visible around the area. wcp-aberdaron-penllech-7

We met a couple of groups of people by the headland. Later we met a runner and a couple of dog walkers, but otherwise it was fairly quiet. There were still a few people around when we reached the wide sandy beach at Porth Oer, families, well wrapped up and kids in wellies. Time was getting on and so we decided to play safe and take the waymarked path on top of the cliff, rather than walking along the beach and finding out why it was called Whistling Sands, just in case there wasn’t an obvious route off the beach at the far end (there was!). wcp-aberdaron-penllech-9

We were conscious of the time, and the light fading. I think this section had a lot of wishful thinking – that bay ahead of us is the one we are heading for! – but it wasn’t. The path was still pretty good, and we could see where we were going, but we knew this would not last for much longer, and so decided to head inland. wcp-aberdaron-penllech-10There were not many signposts, but we headed across a field that looked like a used path heading to a group of houses . At the far end there was a waymarker. We got to the house, walked the short distance across their back garden (sorry! – didn’t set off any alarms or anything!) and to a long farm track back to the road.

By this time, it was almost dark so it was quite a relief to just walk the last mile or two on quiet roads back to the car park. The route actually turned out to be a bit further than we’d anticipated (closer to 16 than 13 miles!) and maybe if we’d checked properly we would have walked a little faster in the morning. Another adventure!wcp-aberdaron-penllech