Pennine Way Byrness to Windy Gyle (Trows Farm)

 

untitled-629th May 2018 – 14.9 miles

Half-term. It has been a warm, sunny May, with unbelievably, warm and sunny Bank Holidays! So hopes were high as we drove to Northumberland on Bank Holiday Monday, passing the queue waiting to leave the motorway at the South Lakes. We drove to Kielder and had a walk round the forest before going to Forest Lodge B&B in Byrness. Before tea, we had a 3 mile walk to the campsite where we had turned round on our previous walk.

Forest Lodge pretty much runs around Pennine Way walkers, and I felt a bit of a fraud walking in, all fresh and clean! Some of the people had walked from Edale in the past few weeks, others were doing the Way in sections. One woman was just over halfway through her walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats!

We set off in the morning at the same time as three others from the B&B. I wasn’t sure I wanted to walk in a group, but it was okay. Once we got up the hill, we found our own pace, and although we were usually within sight of each other, and caught each other up from time to time, we each walked in our couples or threes.

The first part of the walk was straight and steep, at the edge of the forest where I caught a glimpse of a red squirrel. It stopped nearby as I reached for my camera, but ran off as soon as I lifted it to my eye!untitled

The sun came out once we reached the top of the ridge, but we could see thick cloud to the north and over some of the hills to the south. It wasn’t long before it got a bit mistier for us too.untitled-2

The Way passes along the edge of the Otterburn shooting ranges with warning notices posted at regular intervals.untitled-3

We passed the remains of a Roman fort and medieval village at Chew Green – the mounds and banks very visible. We were initially a bit puzzled about the icon that was allowed – at first I thought it was a man with wings – one of the other walkers this evening thought it was a figure with a shotgun – but I realised it was a walker with a map.untitled-4

We made it to the refuge hut at Yearning Saddle for lunch. One of the other groups had got there first, and sat inside, but we were quite content to sit on the ‘veranda’ along with the Australian couple who joined us a few minutes later.untitled-5

After lunch, the cloud thickened around us and quite a chill wind blew. Shortly afterwards, we noticed the Australian couple ahead of us had stopped and we looked across to see some animals which we thought were the wild goats that live on the Cheviot. As we caught up with them, the goats were fairly close – although a bit far away in the mist for a decent picture.untitled-7

The groups all caught each other up shortly after that, and we had a bit of a map-reading conference, although the Way was pretty straightforward, with only one or two places where you had to check which of two paths to take. We let them overtake us, and got to the cairn at Windy Gyle (our stopping place) after the others had gone downhill.untitled-11

Joyce, from Forest View, had given us all a very clear set of directions, down from Windy Gyle for just over a mile, to Trows Farm, where we could wait in a barn for her to collect us in the minibus. We took our time strolling downhill as we knew we would be in plenty of time for her to arrive. As it was we had to sit in the barn – which had the wind whistling through it – for a good half hour, so I was glad we hadn’t rushed. The directions and pick-up all worked very smoothly.untitled-10PW Byrness to Windy Gyle

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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).

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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

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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Lôn Las Menai

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

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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