Western Tarrens 2-day backpack (curtailed)

Sunset from Tarrenhendre pitchA curtailed hike of the western ridge of the Tarren hills, culminating at Tarrenhendre, descending via the Dolgoch Falls and climbing around Craig yr Aderyn to Llanllwyda.

This is the first section of our longer planned route of three to four days that was effectively cut short by a dramatic mishap at the Dolgoch Falls on day two, a serious situation but one that could have been a lot worse – details in the full report.

Full report & Photos

Mersey Valley Timberland Trail & Dunham 2-day backpack

Evening at Appleton LakeA few photos from a 2-day walk of the Mersey Valley Timberland Trail (MVTT), a route of ~21m (~34km) from Runcorn Hill to Oughtrington near Lymm, extended to start at Runcorn station and continue from Oughtrington to Altrincham.

The trail is very sparsely waymarked as such in the eastern half and not at all in the west, as far as we could tell, though some faded illegible waymarks might have done so. The actual route sometimes varies in minor detail from the line shown on OS mapping, our map shows these small deviations as accurately as we can remember them.

With a mixed weather forecast of sunshine and occasional showers, we dusted off this local trail from our bottom drawer of factory seconds, a route of variable character that starts at a small green high oasis in urban Runcorn and passes through town parks to more rural Cheshire countryside and ending near Lymm, the highlights being the fine woodlands, some managed by the Woodland Trust. The weather was much better than expected with no rain and quite hot on the second day.

Pitching on this type of low level trail is often hit and miss, the possibilities appearing very grim for a while in the evening, but we eventually found an excellent woodland pitch, albeit a dark one – this was the first time we needed head torches to pitch with the sun still shining.

Report & Photos

Werneth Low & The Goyt Way day walk

The Millenium Walkway in Torrs gorgeSome photos from a single day walk of the Goyt Way (GW), a route of ~10m (16km) from Etherow visitor centre in Compstall to Whaley Bridge, extended to start at Godley station with an ascent of Werneth Low with its War Memorial and viewpoint. The extension also includes the western part of Etherow Country Park.

This was a walk of scenic variety with the highlights of Werneth Low with its extensive clear views, Torrs gorge with its elevated walkway, viaducts and rock faces, canal towpaths and much excellent woodland to enjoy along the way.

The GW is an old route of the far western Peak District and is not generally waymarked as such except in a few spots, we saw only a handful of finger posts bearing the above logo but it is easy enough to follow on the map from the route file. It is coincident with a section of the Midshires Way.

Report & Photos

Pumlumon Central 3-day backpack

Pitch at Y GarnA 3-day central route through the Pumlumon hills of mid Wales, traversing the mountain summits of Y Garn and Pumlumon, exploring Cwm Rheidol and the remote valley of Hyddgen and finally picking up Glyndwr's Way through the northern hills for a descent to Machynlleth. A large proportion of the route is on good paths and tracks with only a very brief amount of rough terrain.

The route starts close to the little visited Llywernog Pond, east of the Bwlch Nant Yr Arian orienteering facility, and quickly enters the deserted heartland. After the mountains of Y Garn and Pumlumon it crosses the Afon Hengwm and enters the Hyddgen valley with a splendid feeling of remoteness before ascending to the little known and tamer northern hills of the region.

The recent long spell of dry sunny weather was holding save for one very brief thundery evening and this was route an excellent choice, the modest ambitions and long daylight hours allowing plenty of time to walk slowly and relax in the heat of the afternoons to enjoy the area. We saw only one other person in the three days and that was from a distance very early in the morning, surprisingly descending from Pumlumon on the Eisteddfa Gurig path.

Full report & Photos

Wetlands and Waterways Loop day walk

View from WWT Harrier hideA few photos from a single day walk of the Wetlands and Waterways Loop (WWL) route that, according to Visit Sefton, takes you around some of the flattest land in west Lancashire. Pretty cottages, nature reserves and quaint waterside pubs are just some of the things you can see along the way.

The route passes Martin Mere, a site of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, where a visit makes a delightful addition to the route.

Report & Photos

Extended Nantlle Ridge Traverse 3-day backpack

Nantlle ridge from Craig y BeraA superb 3-day extended mountain traverse of the Nantlle ridge, including the outliers of Moel Tryfan and Mynydd Mawr to the north and Craig-y-garn to the south.

The deeply quarried Moel Tryfan is designated as a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) for its geological importance and historical significance in the development of Glacial Theory. For walkers the slate quarrying operations have left a striking landscape of rocky cliffs and vividly coloured pools that briefly adds great scenic interest to the route.

The isolated rocky dome of Craig-y-garn has often caught my eye whilst perusing the map and is honoured with an OS 360° viewpoint icon, yet I’ve never seen it mentioned in any report or forum. Though modest in stature at 360m compared to the Nantlle mountains, there is more subtlety to a viewpoint than height as I discovered on this little known and great rocky gem.

The Nantlle ridge is of course famed as one of the grandest ridge walks in Wales, including the very engaging rocky clamber up Mynydd Drws-y-coed (I wouldn’t call it a scramble), yet on this clear sunny day I saw just a handful of walkers spread over the entire traverse. No doubt many day-walkers are discouraged by the logistics of returning to the start point for a circular route, but it’s no problem for backpackers.

My strategy for the last section to Porthmadog involved footpaths in totally unknown territory and, as has happened before, it turned into another Welsh footpath adventure that ended partially in retreat to reliable minor roads.

Full report & photos

Glyndwr’s Way Intro 2-day backpack

The last ever Lasercomp pitchAn experimental trek to test my capabilities for moderate long distance backpacking using the intro section of the Glyndwr’s Way (GW) national trail.

I’ve backpacked a few of the trails as “fast-and-light” trips, but they were easy and, apart from my Hadrian's Wall trek, they were quite a long time ago: I wanted to test how I would fare now on a moderate trail maintaining the same pace, or reasonably close to it, and carrying about the same loads. To complicate matters there were impending rail strikes that would determine when decisions had to be made. The GW intro from Knighton was a good test candidate, often rising and falling as it weaves its way through the hilly landscape in the heart of Wales.

Making heavy work of the ascents, the result was apparent quite quickly: no way could I sustain this pace on this grade of route with this weight. I just managed the first planned pitch ok, but it was later than expected and my legs really knew about it. The worryingly tiring ascents were sapping the enjoyment from the walk. The next morning was the last day before the rail disruption and I had my definitive answer, I made the decision to abort and caught the bus at Llanbadarn Fynydd to Newtown.

That morning another final decision was made: after a particularly frustrating battle with the pitch, that much loved hated Laser Competition tent was destined for the bin when I landed home. Our long abusive relationship ends – now. Next time stealth is required it will be my Exogen despite the higher weight.

GW is well waymarked here and mainly follows farm tracks, field paths and narrow lanes on this section. This is a trek of broad general views over rolling hills and I took only a few photos. Despite being a national trail, I didn’t see another person for the entire walk, even on the lovely Garth Hill woodland paths on the outskirts of Knighton.

Full report & photos

Mynydd Mynyllod & North East Arenigs 2-day backpack

Pitch at Moel Cae'r-ceiliogA two day trek taking in the high country north of the upper Dee and a new crossing route to a southerly approach to the north eastern Arenigs.

The outward section takes a new line to gain the old familiar ground of Mynydd Mynyllod. The crossing explores new territory including the little known Llyn Caer-Euni and ascends the easternmost hills of the Arenigs from the south, including the new summit of Orddu.

As is often the case, following little used public footpaths in god forsaken parts of Wales was at times… interesting. On routes such as this, I’m beginning to like GPS based phone mapping more and more if only for its accuracy in nailing down the precise line of the right-of-way and our current position. We made extensive use of it on this trip.

This was a curious weather stream, forecast to be generally dry and fine but with unpredictable cloud: the first day was mostly sunny but the second was completely misted out in the Arenigs – win some, lose some. The whole area was completely deserted save for a couple of local residents.

Full report & photos

The Delamere Way day walk

Blakemere MossA few photos from a single day walk of the Delamere Way (DW) waymarked trail that runs south from Frodsham, east through the Delamere Forest and northwards through Cheshire countryside to Stockton Heath on the southern outskirts of Warrington.

Inspired by a dry but mediocre forecast with sunshine at a premium, this trail near to home was a fitting choice, a good distance with little ascent save for a short sharp one to Beacon Hill near the start.

The route is generally well waymarked with the DW arrow except, surprisingly, in the Delamere Forest itself where you need to keep a careful eye on the map amid the numerous tracks and woodland paths.

Full report & photos

Longdendale & West Bleaklow 2-day backpack

Pitch on Bleaklow HeadAn almost circular station-to-station route in the western Dark Peak, starting at Hadfield and ending at nearby Glossop.

The Longdendale Trail starts at Hadfield station and follows the course of the old Woodhead railway for 6½ miles (10½km) past several reservoirs to the closed Woodhead tunnel entrance where it crosses the bridge to enter the River Etherow valley and ascends to Bleaklow via Near Black Clough.

It then takes the very familiar section of the Pennine Way from Bleaklow Head across to Mill Hill and descends via a new line over Chunal Moor to Glossop.

Having reluctantly refrained from winter backpacking this season after medical issues last year, the forecast seemed benign for an early April first trip but we clearly misjudged it this time: despite many years of deep winter mountain camping experience with no difficulty, this pitch on Bleaklow Head will be forever remembered as the coldest we have ever been and a stark warning.

Full report & photos