North Berwyn Way 2-day backpack

Dawn at tent pitchA 2-day autumn backpack of the North Berwyn Way (NBW) waymarked trail, a route traversing the heather moorland to the south of the Dee from Corwen to Llangollen.

We have walked sections of the NBW on previous backpacks and this was an opportunity to walk the complete trail, in particular the industrial heritage section covering the quarry site below Moel Fferna that we have never visited. The trail is signed with the NBW logo pictured above and is generally very easy walking on clear lines, just a few scrappy and squelchy bits on the quarry circuit.

The vibrant autumnal hues of the trees and bracken made this a colourful and rewarding backpack and we saw no other walkers at all until the outskirts of Llangollen at the end.

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Southern Mawddach Way 2-day backpack

Pitch near Llynnau Cregennen & Tyrrau MawrA 2-day route following the southern arm of the Mawddach Way (MW) low-to-mid level trail from Dolgellau to Barmouth, with one small modification to follow the high level track from Gellilwyd Fawr to Kings hostel rather than the more southerly variant via Llyn Gwernan.

Our first public transport backpack in Wales on a weather forecast of low confidence for the west coast, this trip was a trial of the rail and bus routes and an exploration of the MW, starting at Dolgellau on the southern arm of the trail and adapting the schedule according to the conditions. After a good first day the weather deteriorated greatly and we terminated the trip at Barmouth, leaving the northern arm for another time.

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Pooley Bridge to Windermere 2-day backpack

Pitch on High StreetA linear 2-day north-south hike of the far eastern fells of the Lake District, joining the line of the Roman road at Moor Divock near Pooley Bridge as far as High Street and traversing the Ill Bell ridge to the Garburn Pass and Dubbs Reservoir.

We have walked various circuits of all these fells before, but our new public transport regime allowed an obvious natural traverse from Pooley Bridge to Windermere station.

The first day was overcast and grey for the very long and gradual approach to Loadpot Hill and the northernmost summits, but the tops were clear with interest in the dramatic cloud patterns. The second day was in glorious sunshine for the more mountainous scenery of the Ill Bell ridge, surprisingly cold for late August at dawn but becoming very warm by afternoon.

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Whinlatter & Coledale 2-day backpack

Dawn sky from pitch on Ladyside PikeA quickly devised 2-day circuit of the northern hills of the Whinlatter Forest and the southern fells around Coledale.

The outward section, designed to include my one remaining unclimbed Dewey 500m top in the Lake District (Ullister Hill), follows the arc of hills from Lord's Seat to Graystones and descends to the pass at Spout Force and Scawgill Bridge.

The return section ascends to the Coledale fells via the north ridge of Ladyside Pike and Hopegill Head to reach the highest point of Eel Crag, then traverses its east ridge to Causey Pike. The route crosses the valley to Skelgill and follows the Cumbria Way to Keswick.

The main purpose of this trip was to test our research into the use of public transport for long journeys since our decision to go carless. This was my first backpack using entirely public transport, an opportunity to test the Advance Ticket rail booking and seat reservation system and the use of local bus services. It all proceeded extremely well and at very low cost.

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Craig y Llyn & the Tawe Hills 3-day backpack

Pitch on Fan GyhirychA 3-day route around the hills of Cwm Tawe combined with a short one-off excursion to claim Craig y Llyn, one of our two remaining hills on the 600m Sims list. Yr Allt, the other Sim hill, is traversed on the main circuit.

The apparently popular approach to hill bagging where you drive a car as close as possible to the summit, claim the top and drive off again, is one that normally we thoroughly dislike. However there are a few cases where the technique fits quite well and Craig y Llyn, the historic county top of Glamorgan, is a case in point. It lies on the Coed Morgannwg Way trail (CMW) but this route did not appeal as a backpack. The hill is blighted by extensive forestry operations and a wind farm is under construction near the top, leaving the views from the northern edge as its only merit.

A return to the Brecon Beacons was long overdue and we designed the Tawe route to include our first lakeside exploration of Llyn y Fan Fawr, approaching from the east and taking in Moel Feity, another new Dewey 500m top.

With a forecast of hot sunny weather following an already dry spell, and given the limestone geology of this area where streams can disappear underground, we predicted problems maintaining water levels and took our Platypus water container to supplement our usual bottles – how right we were.

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The Kintyre Way 4-day backpack

Pitch on Cnoc nan GabharA 4-day backpack of the Kintyre Way (KW) waymarked trail in Argyll, running through the peninsula from Southend in the south to Tarbert in the north.

This is the old variant of the Kintyre Way that included the 5.4miles (8.7km) B843/B842 road walk link from Campbeltown to Machrihanish. Many walkers sensibly avoided this, as I did, by taking a 17-minute journey on the local bus service.

The weather forecast was highly unusual: warm or hot sunny days for a week ahead in Scotland but often wet with thunderstorms farther south in England. I took the opportunity to pack my gear for this trail backpack at the last minute, despite some misgivings about the timescale including a bank holiday weekend.

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Maiden Way & Cross Fell 2-day backpack

Pitch on Green FellA 2-day route around the hills and moors south of Alston culminating at Cross Fell.

The outward route closely follows a section of the Maiden Way Roman road (MW) from the flank of Park Fell, a new Dewey 500m hill, to its highest point near the summit of Melmerby Fell. It then heads into the broad and little trodden, wild and remote region of Cross Fell's north-western approaches for a pitch on Green Fell.

The second day completes the traverse of Cross Fell and heads north-east through an area of old mines to join the Pennine Way (PW) for a couple of miles. It then branches off westwards into grouse-shooting country over Staneshaw Rigg to Greencastle Tarn, descending Rotherhope Fell via a vehicle track to the River South Tyne and rejoining the PW to Alston.

Much of this route is about spacious landscape views, but also crosses stretches of wilderness of great character where atmosphere and feeling predominate over visuals. There were a few walkers on the two short PW sections, but for the rest of the trip the whole area was deserted. Cross Fell still retained small pockets of snow on its northern face.

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Warcop Fells 2-day backpack

Pitch on Cronkley FellA 2-day route around the fells of the remote Warcop military exercise area culminating at Mickle Fell and returning via Cronkley Fell and the south side of Maize Beck to Murton Fell.

Recent surveys have added two new 2000′ tops to the Nuttalls list, Long Fell and Tinside Rigg, that I was keen to visit to maintain completion status. Another visit to the area had in any case been on the agenda for some time, partly to explore the Tinside Rigg region and also to more fully experience Mickle Fell by doing a complete traverse of its long curved ridge. The route also gives an obvious opportunity to add a couple of new Dewey 500m tops, Roman Fell and Murton Pike.

Some sections of the route are rough and trackless, boggy and very remote, a superbly wild landscape but one that can appear confusing even in clear weather.

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Stanhope Common 2-day backpack

Trig point on Bolt's LawA 2-day route around the moorland hills north of the attractive town of Stanhope, a new area for us, mainly on easy tracks and paths.

The outward high moorland section arcs around the moors of Stanhope Common, visiting the three Dewey 500m summits defining the high points of these rolling hills that stretch into the far distance to emphasize the vastness of the landscape.

The return section descends the Boltslaw Incline to Rookhope and joins the Weardale Way, first following Rookhope Burn to Eastgate then the River Wear back to Stanhope.

The moors are intensively managed for shooting and have a rather different character from our grouse-worrying treks farther west and elsewhere that we walked years ago. The heather is cropped and burned for a plentiful supply of new young shoots and supplemented with many grouse feeding units, a tamer and much easier landscape than those knee-deep excursions.

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Nantgwynant North-West 2-day backpack

Pitch on Y Lliwedd east ridgeA leisurely 2-day traversal of the north-western side of Nantgwynant, visiting Craig Fach, Llyn Llydaw and the Hafod y Llan walk above Craflwyn Hall, some new pockets of Wales for us to explore and giving us a superb pitch on the eastern ridge of Y Lliwedd.

At 609m, Craig Fach is in the elite group of Dewey hills that are also Sims, one of three that we had yet to claim. It is also a fine example of a hill that we probably wouldn’t otherwise have explored due to its very close proximity to the most popular honeypot in Wales, but turns out to be a secluded and delightful little gem.

None of our previous trips to the area have included the lakes enclosed by the Snowdon horseshoe, this was an opportunity to visit one of them, Llyn Llydaw, and view the mountain architecture from a new perspective.

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