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The Island in the Sky – Day 3

The Island in the Sky – Day 3

The weather forecast for today was cloudy but dry so I opened the curtains with a little trepidation, especially after yesterday, to find this.

If that’s the sort of cloudy they meant I’m all for it. Today we go home but not straight home. We plan to go to Lake Bala for a ride on the Lake Bala Railway and to do that we have to go over the Hellfire Pass. We first have to drive along the edge of the lake and passed these rather fine, large trees.

We did notice that there are a goodly number of these very tall, very straight trees in various places around the lake. Nice to see.

We reached the start of the backroad which leads us up to the Hellfire Pass and found that it was a typical Welsh backroad – one car’s width and rather bendy both laterally and vertically.

We were climbing along the side of a valley to our left which Amanda could get a good look at, I didn’t want to take my eyes off the road, and she said it looks really beautiful with a stream running along the bottom and, apparently, waterfalls every few yards.

We managed that road easily enough especially as we didn’t meet any other vehicles (makes life easier) and we eventually turned right on to the Hellfire Pass road. Very soon after a short climb this came into view. There are very, very few places where one could stop off road so, to take this photograph, I just stopped where I was in the road. Again there were no other vehicles and that view is rather dramatic.

We went on a short way to the point at which we could see around that left-hand bend in the valley and I had to stop in the road again for this view.

What a view!

Soon after this we reached the top of the pass where there was a car park – the only one we encountered since we left Lake Vyrnwy so I had to take some more photographs of the views. Incidentally this is the second highest pass in Wales. I mentioned in a previous blog post that we had been over the highest pass in Wales – the Gospel Pass. I wonder where the third highest is?

Now we started down the other side which proved interesting. At times there was level ground either side of the road and at times there wasn’t. There was a very steep slope on the left and there was sometimes a crash barrier and sometimes there was nothing. This, remember, is on a road which is just wide enough to take one car. We did make it down safely and made our way to the Lake Bala Railway terminus.

The train above, waiting in the station, was the one we caught but not before we had a good look around.

This is our rather cute little locomotive called ‘Winifred’. It apparently wasn’t the intended locomotive for today but had to be used because the other one developed a fault this morning.

You may notice that it does not have a cab, so no protection from the elements for the crew, and there isn’t exactly a lot of room on the footplate.

The seating in the carriage wasn’t exactly plush but comfortable enough for a short journey – 30 minutes each way.

This is ‘Maid Marion’ the locomotive that was going to be used today until she got the hump. At least the crew would have had some protection from the weather in that little cab.

This train rockets along at about 10 miles per hour so I was able to take this next photograph of Lake Bala on the move without being joggled about too much. Pretty ain’t it?

When we reached the far end of the line, and the lake, the locomotive had to be uncoupled and moved round the train to the other end which is what’s happening below.

It looks cosy on that small footplate and it’s a good job that it wasn’t raining hard – they don’t even have an umbrella.

I apologise for this next video. It stops prematurely because storage on the camera had filled up. Bother!

That was the end of our trip so it’s time to go home. That was a rather short trip but we didn’t have any idea what the area was like or what the hotel was like so it was a trial trip really. We did like the area and the hotel very much so we would certainly like to re-visit Lake Vyrnwy again, if we can. Until next time!

The Island in the Sky – Day 2

The Island in the Sky – Day 2

The next morning we couldn’t wait to draw the curtains and this was our view.

Oh! Were did all that fog come from? Whilst we were preparing to go down for breakfast we kept an eye on the view and it was then that we saw the island in the sky. What an astonishing view!

The view was changing over time and we realised that the fog was slowly disapating and we could see more of the island as it did so.

However breakfast awaits!

After stuffing ourselves at breakfast we prepared to go out. First we were off to the local village Llanwddyn (pronounced lanurthin) to look at the dam at this end of the lake and I must say it looks very impressive.

Looking from the dam across the lake we can see the straining tower where the water first passes through a fine metal mesh to filter or strain out material in the water. The tower stands in over 50ft deep water and is over 150ft high but much of the structure is hidden underwater and cannot be seen.

Some of the earlier fog is still hanging over the water which makes the scene that much more picturesque.

From the top of the dam part of the village shows in the early morning sun.

Then we set off on today’s adventure which means climbing up the hillside to look at the remains of a Knights Hospitaller Hospitium built in the 14th century.

The first part of the walk was through forest so we could see little but trees. When we finally left the forest we could still see a small portion of Lake Vyrnwy and some beautiful autumn colours.

We were now out in the open trying to navigate across the relatively featureless moorland.

If you look carefully at the image above you should be able to see a diagonal track starting near the left-hand edge of the horizon and sloping down into the picture. That track leads down to the Hospitium but we didn’t know that at this time.

We are much further along now and you can still see that diagonal track disappearing into the dip ahead. It turns out that what remains of the Hospitium is in among that Bracken on our left. It would be very difficult walking through that so, although it was disappointing, we gave it a miss.

We went on round to the left and down into that valley which is where that diagonal track was leading and in the valley is a small stone bridge over which that track passes. This medieval bridge is a crude but functional structure and each side is shown in the photographs below.

There was supposed to be a spring near the Hospitium and Amanda found it by wandering around until she could hear rushing water. It was rather buried in the undergrowth but the flow was very strong.

We made our way back to the car (much easier to say than to do) and as it was parked next to the lake we noticed that the change in the direction of the sunlight was now lighting up the arches in the top of the dam rather nicely.

Driving back to the hotel I spotted this nice view of the hotel so stopped to take a photograph.

We went up to our room to prepare for dinner and later I took this photograph of that same view from the window again but different lighting.

I don’t think I could ever get bored with that view.

Moor and More

Moor and More

August has been a dismal month. Cloudy and cool a lot of the time and you would never have guessed that it was supposed to be summer so on the very few occasions when the sun did appear we jumped at the chance to go out somewhere.

About 16 years ago around the time that this web site was started we ‘discovered’ Carding Mill Valley in the Long Mynd near Church Stretton and, having looked on the map, it was evident that there was a walking route shaped like a ‘Y’ where one could start at the bottom of the Y, walk up taking the left fork, where it divided, then walk across to the other arm of the ‘Y’ and walk back down to where one had started.

I’ve always wanted to do that walk but have never managed it until today. The weather forecast was clear skies for most, if not all, of the day. They were lying as usual. Although we had a very good amount of sun the sky was anything but cloudless. We set off for Church Stretton and were planning to come down into Church Stretton via the Burway. This is a very minor road which goes over the Long Mynd.

The picture below was taken on the way up and you may notice that on the right-hand side of the road the ground drops away suddenly. On the way up that drop is on our left and, although not vertical, the drop is very steep and you really wouldn’t want to drive off the edge. The road is only one car wide so if another car comes from the opposite direction one must find a passing place and, for us being on the left, we have to take great care squeezing past so as not to go off the edge.

We did meet a car coming the other way and we survived.

We eventually arrived at the top to be greeted by a large expanse of moor with heather scattered here and there not to mention the amazing view.

I stopped to take this next picture because somewhere down in the dip is Church Stretton and the heather looked wonderful.

As we progressed downward we could see the hills around Church Stretton and there was still plenty of heather in view.

As we descended we gradually lost the heather but the hills still looked pretty impressive. In the picture below the buildings in the trees at the end of that ridge is Church Stretton and, if you remember, we are planning to walk back up here not to mention down again.

We finally made it to Church Streeton and drove into the National Trust car park in Carding Mill Valley and went into their restaurant for lunch. We both had some Pea and Mint Soup, with bread, which was very tasty and very welcome. Afterwards I had some Bread Pudding and Amanda had a Chocolate Brownie which was followed by tea for her and coffe for me.

Now we walk! surprise

The picture below shows the start of the path, near the car park, up the valley.

In the picture below we have reached the banch in the ‘Y’ and are going left behind that tree and, we hope, we will be coming back down the path on the right.

When we got to that junction we stopped and looked back at the view in the picture below then headed further up the valley with its interlocking spurs (Geography) in the picture after that.

We finally arrived at the little waterfall. Here we go off to the right up a near vertical climb. It is rocky which makes it very easy because it’s like going up stone steps. We managed that without incident and continued along the valley until we reached the high moorland once again although not in a car this time.

We found a pond up here and Amanda apparently found something interesting to look at. Probably she was bending down for a rest but didn’t want to admit it.

We walked along the high ground until we found the start of the path down and you can see that we weren’t the only walkers about. You may be able to see Church Stretton in the distance.

As we get lower there is less heather around.

More interlocking spurs in the picture below and although we are losing the heather it is still in evidence.

Finally we arrive back at the junction of the two arms of the ‘Y’. Remember that little tree by the path at the bottom there?

You will have guessed that we made it back to the car otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this. August is not a good time to come to a place like this as the lower parts are very popular and the children are on holiday so everyone and his dog are there but we wanted to see the heather and, guess what, heather blooms in August.

Well it took me just 16 years to achieve my ambition but I finally made it. laughyes

A devil of a walk

A devil of a walk

When Amanda was a child she used to read books by Malcolm Saville some of who's stories were situated around the Stiperstones in Shropshire and she had always wanted to vist them. The Stiperstones are on a ridge a little west of the Long Mynd near Church Stretton and is about a 45 minute drive from us so, of course, we had to go.

There is a car park at the bottom of the eastern flank of the Stiperstones ridge and that is where we parked. We found the start of the footpath up to the ridge easily enough and could see some of the rocky outcrops on the summit of the ridge from the car park.

The slope wasn't too bad but the distance is longer than it appears in the photograph. This area is designated as an NNR (National Nature Reserve) and has lots of interesting wildlife including lizards and adders (venomous snakes) to mention but a few.

We reached the ridge after a not too strenuous walk to be greeted by this view.

It was unfortunate that we picked a hazy day which meant that, although it was a lovely day, the distant views were partly obscured. The views still looked amazing though and we started along the ridge which meant that, from this point, we were still climbing.

You'll never guess who that is ahead.

This ridge was formed about 480 million years ago from quartzite and during the last ice age these rocky outcrops stood above the glaciers and were subject to constant freezing and thawing which shattered the quartzite into a mass of jumbled rock as we were to discover.

That jumbled rock was eventually covered in vegetation but when people walk over it the vegetation wears away and, if it's popular (which it is), the soil is worn away too leaving the exposed rock. This is what the path looks like:

Let me tell you that is very awkward and uncomfortable to walk on. It is very unwise not to look at the ground whilst walking and, if you want to look at the view, then stop walking first.

A number of the various rock outcrops along the ridge have names and this was the second one we reached. This is called Manstone Rock and has an Ordnance Survey trigonomentry point on it which you should be able to see. Amanda 'collects' these so that was one to add to the list.

At the far end of Manstone Rock was this interesting rock pillar formation:

So on we went towards that distant outcrop in the picture above, the Devil's Chair, which is the one on the right below.

Luckily (or otherwise) there was a little devil in situ:

I hope it doesn't put you off going there. At this point we must be near, or at, the maximum height of 1759 feet as you may be able to see from the view in this next picture.

The two figures on the path between the rock outcrops give an idea of scale and they were two of the few other people we saw on this walk. We did hear, and see, some skylarks singing in the sky above our heads and we also saw two lizards although they quickly scuttled off into the heather but, sadly, no adders.

We turned around and made our way back along that dreadful path although once we reached the downward turn the surface was much better and we soon arrived back at the car park.

We drove down to The Bog, as you do, which is a visitor centre for the area and we had a light lunch before moving on to our next, and final, destination. It was a short drive on normal roads then a short, slow, very bumpy drive up a track to a small parking area and this is what we came to see:

It is Mitchell's Fold Stone Circle. Not quite as spectacular as Stonehenge, smilies, but it is possible to walk among, and touch, the stones. They appear to vary in size because a number of them have fallen and have been left in that position.

This view shows Corndon Hill in the background and also a little Amanda sitting on the grass on the far side.

Have you ever had that feeling that you're being watched?

This is a Bronze Age stone circle in Shropshire situated at a height of 1083 feet and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument in the guardianship of English Heritage. As with most sites of this type, its true history is unknown but the doleritic stones came from nearby Stapeley Hill.

In the beginning there may have been some thirty stone pillars and the survivors that still stand range in height from 10 inches to 6 feet 3 inches and stand in an ellipse 89 feet NW-SE by 82 feet.

That was our day! Two quite interesting (we thought) locations and just a shortish drive home.

Getting bored with all these Welsh/English borders views yet? smilies


Rock and Water – Day 4

Rock and Water – Day 4

Amanda and I aren't talking to each other this morning! That's because we are each going to different places, me back to Great Asby Scar and Amanda to the small market town of Kirkby Stephen.

Amanda is catching a heritage (rather old) bus into Kirkby Stephen and she actually took a photograph of the inside whilst she was going along. This bus had a platform entrance at the rear and a conductor!

The stairs to the upper deck started from the rear platform.

The roads around here can be very steep and Amanda said the bus made a bit of a meal of them and, at one point, she was afraid that the driver would run out of gears but they arrived safely in Kirkby Stephen.

Meanwhile I had driven up to Great Asby Scar again but to the west side this time. I had heard that the limestone pavements on that side had a distinctly different appearance so I parked the car and set off over the moors. One and a half miles later I could see my destination in the distance.

It didn't take long to get there and find that it was much the same as the pavement on the eastern side.

Perhaps I wasn't in the right place but I didn't have any more time and it would take hours looking around an area like this so I made my way back to the car and thence to Kirkby Stephen. Nice scenery though.

I met up with Amanda in Kirkby Stephen and we had some lunch before venturing out into the little town. We first visited Frank's Bridge; a 17th century corpse lane bridge across which coffins were carried on their way to the church.

In the town we saw this old signpost with distances marked in miles and furlongs and for those of you that don't know there are 8 furlongs to a mile.

We then chanced to walk over a bridge, looked over the edge, and this is what we saw.

There was obviously a serious amount of water there making quite a lot of noise. It was now getting late in the day so we went back to our hotel to prepare for dinner. Tomorrow is our last whole day before we leave for home.

Rock and Water – Day 3

Rock and Water – Day 3

Today was our first full day in the area and we set off eastwards into the Yorkshire Dales towards Keld and Muker along the B6270 road. Don't take the 'B' classification as an indication that it is a reasonably fast road because this road is only one car wide, bends left and right and goes up and down all over the place. Luckily there are places where one can squeeze past other vehicles although we saw few of those (vehicles not passing places) but the scenery is really wonderfully dramatic.

Looking at the road in the picture above you will see that it disappears over a hump in the distance and then, if you look carefully, you can see the road re-appear over to the left about halfway between this section that we're on and the left edge of the picture. It really does wander all over the place. Ocasionally one can find an area big enough to pull off and stop which is what we did around Hollow Mill Cross by Tailbrigg Hill and look what we found – another limestone pavement.

One of the interesting features of this limestone area is that the soil is mostly acid which seems to be a contradiction on limestone but there is so much rain up here that all the calcareous content has been leached from the soil.

This pavement is very well weathered and you'll notice the little tarn (lake) in the distance which is only there because the acid soil is relatively impermeable and just to the right of that tarn is the tiny figure of Amanda who is just about to make an interesting discovery.

She is heading for that row of humps to the right of her figure and this is what she found.

It's what is known as a Shake Hole. These are often 60-80 feet deep or more and can be caused by the collapse of part of a cave system below, fracturing the limestone, and allowing water to seep down and dissolve the limestone to form these shafts.

We decided to move on and eventually came down off the high ground into a very small village called Keld. We found a place to park and walked down to the river where there were a couple of nice little waterfalls.

You may have noticed that on this trip the weather is rather changeable but it hasn't actually rained yet and we have had a little sun. We moved on to Thwaite where we had lunch and I now have a little tale to tell.

We had been to this area before, about 35 years ago, and on one night we stayed in a small pub in a small village and Amanda and I couldn't remember exactly where it was but she was keen to try and find out.

She remembered that it was called either The Queens Head or The Kings Head and we both remembered that it was run by an old lady. We both remembered that it was next to a small river which was thundering along because of all the rain at that time (nothing much changes does it?).

One of the people where we had lunch though, after hearing our tale, suggested that it may well have been in Gunnerside a few miles further along the road. So after lunch we set off and very soon caught a glimpse of Gunnerside.

Arriving in the village we soon found the Kings Head. This view of it is across the bridge over a small river. We went in and spoke to the people who now run it and had a brief look around and Amanda thinks that this could be the one. So one mystery solved.

Our next destination was the Buttertubs up on the Buttertubs Pass at around 1700 feet. Now that was an interesting road with a steep drop on one side and, again, rather narrow. There was a flimsy looking barrier along the edge which I remember wasn't there when we came this way before. They do seem to pander to motoring wimps these days.

We arrived at the Buttertubs and found space (there isn't much) to park. It was also raining and I was trying to take photographs and keep the camera dry. This is one of those Buttertubs.

Needless to say you wouldn't want to fall into one of those and here is Amanda doing her "let's look down a big deep hole but don't go too near the edge" thing by another of the Buttertubs.

Where does the name come from? It is said that the name of the potholes came from the times when farmers would rest there on their way to market. During hot weather they would lower the butter that they had produced into the potholes to keep it cool. I can't say I'm thoroughly convinced by that but I can't offer an alternative explanation.

We decided to call it a day at this point, having seen an awful lot of rock and water, and returned via that same hairy road to our hotel. More tomorrow.


Yorkshire and the Great North Road

Yorkshire and the Great North Road

As I said in my posting entitled ‘Mid-summer Madness’ I went up to the North Yorkshire Moors on Friday 27th July and returned on Thursday 2nd August.

I went via the M11, A14, the A1 (The Great North Road), A168 and the A19 and the drive up was moderately awful. The traffic from near the end of the M11 until the junction with the western leg of the A14 was very dense which slowed everything down. Then, once on the A1, it seemed that there was a two and a half mile traffic queue at every roundabout on the A1 and there are 4 or five on that stretch. After I eventually turned off on to the A168/A19 I though that my troubles were over but, no, roadworks on the A19 caused yet another queue.

The journey took 7 hours instead of 5 or less – not a good start.

I did eventually arrive at Baysdale Abbey where I was staying and before you get excited let me explain that in spite of its name it is not an abbey. There was once an abbey there but it has long gone.

Baysdale Abbey is the long building that looks a bit like a military barracks, rather plain outside but comfortable enough inside and sleeps 17. The setting though is very nice. One has to drive up a single track road that winds up to the top of the moors and back down again into Baysdale. That road is the only entrance and exit.

There weren’t actually 17 of us but only 14 and that was quite enough. There was a small beck (stream) running past and fish could be seen in the clear water. Footpaths radiated out from Baysdale and up about 600 feet onto the moors above.

My first trip out was the next day, Saturday, to Robin Hood’s Bay about 6 miles south along the coast from Whitby. We didn’t go straight to Robin Hood’s Bay but headed to Boggle Hole where we intended to park and then walk along the cliff top to Robin Hood’s Bay.

Robin Hood’s Bay is the name for both the bay itself and also the little village near the top of the bay. The snag with this walk is that the car park at Boggle Hole is level with the top of the cliffs and one has then to walk down the lane to sea level and then climb steeply back to the top of the cliffs again. At the Robin Hood’s Bay end one has to go back down to sea level again. Ah well it’s good exercise!

This view is from the top of the village, yes that’s another climb, looking back towards Boggle Hole with Ravenscar on the headland in the distance.

The village has some really picturesque cobbled narrow back lanes which vehicles could not possibly access.

The following day, Sunday, we all went for a round-trip walk onto the moors with quite a lot of stopping and looking. It was only 4 miles, but through dramatic moorland scenery, and we arrived back in time for a late lunch.

On Monday we all went to Whitby which is about 10 miles along the coast from Staithes. Whitby is arranged around the mouth of the River Esk so not only does it have river scenes but also coastal scenes.

Tuesday I went with my younger brother to Staithes on the coast to the east. My first visit to Staithes was about 50 years ago when one could drive down the steep, cobbled village street and park by the roadside. There were also a few elderly women still wearing traditional local dress. I re-visited about 6 years later and not much had changed. Tourism in Staithes was unheard of at that time.

Things have changed a bit since then but the village is just as quaint and charming although the traditional dress is no longer to be seen. The only people permitted to drive down into the village are people who need access such as residents, delivery vehicles, etcetera and there is a large car park at the top of the hill where visitors must park.

On Wednesday we all went back to Robin Hood’s bay via Boggle Hole because some of the group missed the first trip and the following day I returned home.

The drive back was not as bad as the drive up but there was one seven and a half mile queue at one point which delayed me by about 45 minutes.

New pages of the places I visited together with photographs will appear on the web site in due course.