South Western Arenigs 4-day backpack

Pitch on Foel BoethA linear 4-day trek in the South Western Arenigs from Bala to Dolgellau.

A weather forecast of several sunny days, including a weekend, and the imminent easing of lockdown restrictions: just the time to escape the inevitable hordes for another visit to one of our favourite areas of old, the generally forsaken and often trackless wild Arenigs. Always a reliable plan, in four days of almost unbroken sunshine, we saw just one couple ascending Arenig Fawr in the evening of day one, thereafter nobody at all – the whole area was deserted.

Eleven years have flown by since our last backpack in this region. This time we found the large tracts of rough tangled terrain much harder, the effort intensified by the unrelenting heat and struggle to maintain a good level of hydration. Regarding the latter, we were very glad to have packed a full tube of High 5 electrolyte tabs to maintain a better salt balance:- by the end of this trip my blue top had large patches of white all over it. Designed as a slackpacking trek with time for leisurely ascents and exploration, it turned out quite the opposite.

On this trip the prevailing irritants were those fairly large biting insects, clegs I think, that left numerous itchy red lumps on the hands, wrists and lower legs. Very oddly though, despite the calm humid nights, we were not troubled by midges at all.

Full report & photos

Western Arans 2-day backpack

Pitch at Llyn y FignFinally after more than a year of CV lockdown and an 18 months hillwalking layoff, we set off on our first backpack of 2021.

Local walks in the flatlands, some over 20 miles, have been fine for maintaining distance training but do nothing for ascent. With some apprehension we chose a reasonable mountain route to test the effects of the hiatus and that should be easy to reach by public transport without significant difficulty. This is a shorter modified version of my Aran Ridge south-west trip using the same approach from Rhydymain, a good choice for solitude for most of the route during a holiday week.

The weather was holding after a glorious bank holiday weekend but the sky turned milky, resulting in a poor flat light for most of the first day and improving on the second. A strong wind made for an interesting high pitch on Glasgwm and became a lot stronger on the main ridge.

As expected after so long away, the ascents were very slow and tiring, but this was a tonic of a backpack and a real morale booster.

Full report & photos

Bridgewater Way, TP Trail & Carrington Moss

TP Trail & celandinesA few pictures from another lockdown restricted day walk from the door, this is a variation on the Bridgewater canal / Carrington Moss theme taking a longer route around the northerly fringes of the Moss to skirt the Carrington chemical plant.

Today was the hottest March day since 1968 and it showed in the numbers of people out and about: loads of walkers, cyclists and quite a few horse riders. The butterflies were out in force too, a spectacular number for March including Brimstones, Peacocks, Tortoiseshells and Orange-tips.

At the northerly edge of Carrington Moss, the right-of-way along the southern edge of Shell Pond nature reserve was not accessible from the eastern end near the MUFC facility, it was taped across and enforced by the guard in the cabin. Instead we took the track south, west and north to gain a peek at the western end but it was barely worthwhile, only glimpses of the lake and birds were possible through the bordering trees and security fence. The loud cries of the birds could easily be heard though.

This northerly region of the Moss was almost deserted, a pleasant change from the crowds before on the BW and TPT.

Full report & photos

Bridgewater Way, Manchester & TP Trail

Woodcote lakeAnother Covid restricted day walk from the door, here are a few pictures from one of our regular walks into Manchester, good for distance but very little ascent to provide any significant training for hill and mountain walks.

The first welcome signs of Spring greenery were in evidence on the Bridgewater Way towpath and Carrington woods on the southern sections.

On the northern urban section, skyscraper construction continues apace in Manchester with several new giants nearing completion. Many more major redevelopments are underway dotted around the city.

Full report & photos

New Year 2021

Snowy treesOur best wishes to everyone for the coming year, though hoping for a better 2021 is setting a depressingly low bar. At least the view of the snowy trees from our window taken yesterday cheers up this New Year milestone post a bit.

Our position in a CV high-risk group, plus our reliance on public transport, destroyed our backpacking hopes for 2020 – no trips at all last year. Just a single day outing to Martin Mere before CV hit us, then single-day walks from the door, a few of which we wrote up on the site.

Satisfactory local backpack routes are very difficult to devise, but we came up with one where stealth pitching would be feasible with care, as we have often done in the past, but even this route would need a few miles by taxi to the start point. However our local taxi firms seem indifferent to the pandemic. There is no mention of it on their websites and the drivers don’t even wear masks, as we discovered a few months ago when forced to use one to attend the funeral of my sister (yet another downer to add to the general theme of FU-2020).

So we wait, currently in tier 4, doing short day walks whenever we can. In the meantime keep walking wherever you are.

The demise of OpenSpace


Since its launch in 2008 by the Ordnance Survey, we have used OpenSpace mapping to display our walk routes on mapping at (optimally) 1:50000 scale, older routes had only a rough digital sketch map. The OpenSpace API (Application Programming Interface) was based on OpenLayers 2.12 and the OS need to remove this dependency and enable their map products to be used with any mapping library.

They recently emailed us to announce the withdrawal of their OpenSpace mapping in August 2021, to be replaced in our case by the OS Maps API available via the OS Data Hub. I saw the end coming quite a while ago when they declared that OpenSpace is no longer officially supported, though still available to existing users. They included links to their web pages to get us started on migration of our maps, but after creating a new account (mandatory) and obtaining a new API key, I immediately had a couple of very basic questions that I emailed to them.

It was far from clear which map type to use for our purposes: the choice was between WMTS and REST-ZXY, which meant little to me in our context. Their answer was that WMTS is better for GIS software and ZXY is better for web mapping (it requires less code).

Another choice was between layers: Leisure_27700 and Outdoor_27700 both sounded right. Leisure_27700 is the layer that gives access to 50k and 25k maps.

To get access to the 1:50000 and 1:25000 maps, the new account must be a premium account, but no financial details or commitment are necessary at this stage. Their web page shows their tile-based pricing structure with premium plan details to be supplied, but the first £1000 of access per month is free – that should be plenty for our site.

After the inevitable learning curve, I took the opportunity to make a big improvement to the way we create and show maps and the result is much better. Rather than a dedicated map page for each route, which requires changes to every one of them whenever a general change is needed, there is a single route-agnostic map page that is supplied with route-specific details for each trip via its PHP interface. The route map is now shown in a bigger window and the mapping will zoom in to 1:25000 if desired.

At the same time I went through the numerous older trips that previously had only sketch maps and they are now plotted on OS mapping.
Three solid weeks of effort, but CV lockdown is a good time to do it and I’m pleased with the result.

CV#03 – Sinderland & Carrington Moss

Carrington Moss trig point 23mCV lockdown walk from the door #3.

This circuit uses a section of the Bridgewater Way to reach the woodland park paths following Sinderland Brook westwards to the disused rail trackbed through the Carrington estate. Good tracks enable a diversion around part of Carrington Moss before returning on the trackbed to join the Transpennine Trail by lane to Seamon’s Bridge.

Carrington Moss is a broad expanse of farmland reclaimed from peat bog that is nigh on flat as a pancake. A trig point right in the middle of it is begging to be bagged for its curiosity value alone and a lattice of good tracks enables a very pleasant walk to it.

The narrow path of the disused rail trackbed through the Carrington Estate is not maintained, not a right of way and is not endorsed by any signage, but is clearly quite well known to locals at its eastern end. West of Brookheys Farm, the trackbed is impassable but a walker path is established on the south side of the line.
The line was used by oil trains serving Carrington refinery whose extensive infrastructure can be seen from the trig point and nearby tracks.

Full report & photos

CV#02 – Transpennine Trail, Bridgewater Way & Dunham Massey

Dunham MillThe CV lockdown wears on with another three weeks announced this morning. This week has seen excellent clear sunny weather and we did a 5-mile walk on nearly deserted local leafy roads a couple of days ago. Today was our first chance for a longer walk worth a report.

This local circuit follows the Transpennine Trail west from Seamon’s Bridge skirting Heatley and Oughtrington to Lymm, returning on the Bridgewater Way along the canal to Little Bollington and through the National Trust (NT) park of Dunham Massey.

The buildings and gated gardens of NT properties are closed for the lockdown along with their car parks, meaning a very quiet and peaceful experience in the Dunham Massey parkland, but everywhere else, people were out in large numbers in the very warm sunshine, more than we have ever seen before on this route even at the height of a normal summer. Some deft manoeuvres were required at times to maintain distance on the canal towpath.

Full report & photos

CV#01 – Bridgewater Way & Transpennine Trail

The Mersey and TPTThe CV (CoronaVirus) lockdown has been upon us for what seems like ages but is actually just 2 or 3 weeks now. Public transport is off limits for all but essential travel for everyone, but particularly for us since we are in an at-risk group due to age and I had that pulmonary embolism a few years back that we think weakened one of my lungs.

For the forseeable future it’s quick walks into town for supplies and longer exercise walks from the door, maintaining distance from other people. The idea for this circuit came from a forced (effectively) 15-mile return walk to my regular NHS appointment for an INR checkup last week, it has temporarily been relocated to the main hospital around 8 miles away:- no way would I risk taking a bus confined with other people and the potential viral load in such an enclosed space.

This local circuit follows the Bridgewater Way along the canal to join the Transpennine Trail at the NCN 62 cycle route that meets the River Mersey and returns on tracks and lanes through woodland and countryside to the west.

Full report & photos

Around Dovedale 2-day backpack

Pitch on Dove CragA short 2-day winter circuit of the fells around Dovedale to the south-west of Brothers Water.

Late starts, short daylight hours and bus timetables greatly limit the possibilities for winter backpacks but the forecast was for clear and very cold days that made this little round most rewarding. We packed the microspikes but didn’t need them, it was so cold on the tops that the thick frost encrusting the rocky landscape was dry and crunchy, not slippery at all. The ice was very patchy and easily avoided despite the recent heavy rains, it also helped considerably with the boggy bits.

The culmination of the round as the light was quickly fading was a superb pitch on Dove Crag.

Full report & photos