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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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.

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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.

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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: 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

 

 

Wales Coast Path: Aberdaron to Rhiw

wcp-aberdaron-rhiw-420 November 2016 – 11.14 miles

We left our nice B&B, turning down the offer of a lift for a linear walk so that we had the option of lengthening or shortening the walk as we felt like it! We parked again at Aberdaron, heading slightly inland up a small river valley and through fields. wcp-aberdaron-rhiwWe did head down to a caravan site before realising it didn’t look right. Further back up the track there was a waymarker, more easily visible when you were going the ‘wrong’ way! wcp-aberdaron-rhiw-2

This took us back towards the coast, over rolling hills high above the sea. It was another beautiful day, sunny and clear, and fairly warm for November. We looked across Cardigan Bay, taking a bearing and decided that we actually could see Pembrokeshire on the horizon! There were a few sheep grazing and a number of ponies.wcp-aberdaron-rhiw-3

We headed inland up a lovely valley with a stream and waterfalls, and the remains of old mining industry.wcp-aberdaron-rhiw-5

The path then headed back to the coast on open access moorland, again high rolling hills. It appears that the path has been diverted and improved to run closer to the coast than it does on our map, although it has been pretty well waymarked. wcp-aberdaron-rhiw-6

We reached a minor road, close to the National Trust property of Plas-yn-Rhiw and at the western end of Hell’s Mouth Bay, and decided to make that our turnaround point. wcp-aberdaron-rhiw-7

We followed the quiet minor road back to Aberdaron, reaching it just as the sun was beginning to set. wcp-aberdaron-rhiw-8wcp-aberdaron-rhiw

Haltwhistle to Housesteads

pw-haltwhistle-housesteads-527 October 2016 – 11 miles

We packed up our holiday cottage and drove a short way up the road to park on the roadside. We headed across a field to Hadrian’s Wall. The way today followed the Wall and so wayfinding was no problem at all. There were also more people around than yesterday.

The Wall itself is extant for most of the route, with the foundations of some turrets visible, and some of the milecastles well preserved.pw-haltwhistle-housesteads-2 It would be good one day to take it a bit slower and actually look at what is visible on the ground. The weather was a lot duller and cooler today with a cold wind.

Views stretched for a good distance in all directions, and it was good to look west and see where we had walked two days ago. Looking forward, there were outcrops of crags as good visible landmarks. We had lunch sheltered in a wood on top of one of these crags.pw-haltwhistle-housesteads

Rather nice to see Sycamore Gap, such a famous view. pw-sycamore-gap

The Pennine Way leaves Hadrian’s Wall at Turret 37A and we could see it heading north across what could be rather wet ground!pw-haltwhistle-housesteads-4 As Housesteads was less than a mile away, we kept going to turn around there, expecting coffee and cake. What a disappointment – they only had a drinks machine! – so we had an ice-cream and a toilet stop before heading back.

We did try to go for some of the way along the Military Way, just south of the Wall, and rather more level! We didn’t stay on it all the way, but we missed out the worst of the ups and downs.

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Lambley to Kirkhaugh

pw-lamley-kirkhaugh26 October 2016 – 14.4 miles

We parked in the village of Lambley then walked the short distance to the Pennine Way (where we should have been yesterday!). Despite being along the route of a Roman road – the Maiden Way – it wasn’t terribly dry going. However, there were boards set around the stiles to get you over the worst bits.pw-lamley-kirkhaugh-2

The weather was a bit greyer than yesterday and getting a bit chilly. We could hear shooting going on up higher on the moors and at one point, as we walked past, a man shouted and waved a red flag, signalling for the shooting to stop as we passed. I assume they weren’t firing towards the Pennine Way, but that they stopped to lessen the danger of someone swinging round in our direction!pw-lamley-kirkhaugh-3

We got down to the valley at Burnstones, crossed by a railway viaduct, and had lunch above the river, facing a rather nice manor house (Knarsdale Hall) which we decided was where the shooting parties were based.

The Pennine Way then runs parallel to the disused railway line and we could see a few people walking along it – nobody on the Pennine Way! At one point, behind a small row of cottages, the Way takes you over their back walls and through their gardens (there are fields behind!).

We reached the delightfully named village of Slaggyford, where there was work going on along the railway as the narrow gauge line is being extended to here.

pw-lamley-kirkhaugh-4A short walk along the road took us to a path along the River South Tyne and then to Lintley, the end of the narrow-gauge railway, where we stopped to watch a train leave!

pw-south-tyne-railwayIt was drizzling off and on by now, so it was good to finally reach Kirkhaugh Station for the return journey along the railway. We did have to retrace our route around Slaggyford for a while because of the works, but otherwise it was an easy and straightforward route back. pw-south-tyne-railway-2We did end up walking through the front garden of the disused station house at Lambley, but in our defence, the sign that makes it clear that this is private was on the far side! We got back to the car at dusk, not as dark as yesterday!

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Haltwhistle to Lambley

pennine-way-hadrians-wall25 October 2016 – 18 miles

Today was possibly one of the best and worst days of the Pennine Way!

Staying in a holiday cottage just outside Haltwhistle, we had a short walk up the road to join the Pennine Way where it runs alongside Hadrian’s Wall. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day. Walking along Hadrian’s Wall was great, interesting and easy wayfinding. There were quite a few walkers about, some obviously just visiting the Wall with others looking as if they were doing some long distance walking. We had lunch at Walltown Crags picnic site, showing how the area had been quarried in the 19th and 20th century – it seems unthinkable to be quarrying until relatively recently in such an historic area!

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Walking further along the route of the wall, we came to the rather impressive ruins of Thirwall Castle.

pennine-way-hadrians-wall-3Shortly after this, the Pennine Way splits from the Hadrian’s Wall Path, and we saw no othe walkers – apart from one man in the distance on the moors.

After crossing the busy A69 we headed towards open moorland, first on a good track which soon petered out. Some of the ground was very wet – there was a board walk along one stretch but as there was a huge muddy area in front of it, we skirted round. The path was very difficult to find and we ended up following a fence line to get back on course. Even looking back, the path was not really visible on the ground. Blenkinsopp Common was very wet, and we just had to find the best route across while staying on course (luckily the Pennine Way runs in a pretty straight line). This was where we saw the other walker – he was walking alongside a wall – I wonder if the ground was any more solid? At least it was just wet, not as muddy and peaty as some sections further south.

pennine-way-hadrians-wall-5The next section was similarly wet, with some boardwalks, but not nearly enough! I think we were not quite on the route for some parts, but we were just keeping going to get off the moor!pennine-way-hadrians-wall-6

The next section was rough ground, but a lot drier. The GPS had been going through batteries all day, and now the last set gave up. But we set off in what we thought was the correct line, then ended up at the road about a mile north of where we should be. We had over-compensated to the left, but this was no bad thing as we walked down the road to where we had intended to be – much easier!

This took us to the village of Lambley from where a disused railway line has been turned into a foot & cycle path to take us back to Haltwhistle. It began at this viaduct over the River Tyne.pennine-way-hadrians-wall-7pennine-way-hadrians-wall-8

We had realised that it would be getting dark and so a railway track would be a feasible walk. It was completely dark when we got back to Haltwhistle, very glad to be there and very glad of the hearty dinner in the Black Bull (which had been recommended!).

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