The Salter’s Way 2-day backpack

Pitch below Tegg's Nose summitA solo 2-day varied linear route based on the historic pack-horse trail of a medieval salt way from its mining source at Northwich on the Cheshire plain to Saltersford Hall in the hills of the western Peak District.

Needing a quick backpack route for a couple of days near to home, I thought of this little known trail that has gathered dust for many years on our books and, to our knowledge, has never been reported. Most of the Cheshire plain section is new territory of low level country walkling, while the Peak District section presents some new paths and some familiar hillwalking landscapes from a different vantage.

On public transport, Lostock Gralam station seemed a better choice than Northwich for walking to the start of the SW: though a little longer, there is a towpath to follow along the Trent & Mersey canal. To complete this backpack, from Saltersford Hall I ascended to the ridge of Windgather Rocks and descended into the Dale of Goyt to join the Midshires Way northwards to Whaley Bridge station.

Northwich, along with Middlewich and Nantwich, are the main towns historically based on the salt trade and the westernmost section of the SW passes a number of working brine pump installations. Other industrial themes both old and new feature periodically on this route.

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Llantysilio Hills & Eglwyseg 2-day backpack

Eglwyseg cragsA 2-day route across the Llantysilio hills to the north of the River Dee, returning via World’s End and the excellent path below the western crags of Eglwyseg Mountain. The Llangollen canal provides an easy and picturesque finish.

A summer solstice backpack for 2019, a couple of days of fine weather was at last forecast after a cold wet spell and this was a most enjoyable trip, revisiting the hills in the west and including some new sections of trail on the eastern side, in particular the full traverse of the excellent path below the Eglwyseg cliffs that hosts a fragment of the Offa’s Dyke Path.

In July 2018 the flanks of Llantysilio Mountain were ravaged by a moorland fire and this traverse of Moel y Gamelin was a sad affair, seeing the charred bare slopes that were once ablaze with the vibrant pinks of heather on our last visit in September 2002. Strategy for recovery is no doubt being discussed at length but full restoration will take years.

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The Cateran Trail 3-day backpack

Approach to An LairigA 3-day solo backpack of the Cateran Trail waymarked circular route through Perthshire and the Angus glens in south-eastern Scotland, a varied low-to-mid level route following old tracks and drove roads used by the notorious Cateran cattle raiders in bygone times.

The original 64-mile (103km) route repeats the initial 7-mile (11km) section from Blairgowrie to Bridge of Cally on the return leg. On this backpack I took the documented alternative route variant from Alyth to Blairgowrie via Den of Alyth and Glendams, sometimes called the Drimmie Woods alternative route and signed as such in Alyth, that returns on a direct line and eliminates that lengthy repetition.

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The Dyfi Ridge 2-day backpack

Cribin Fawr pitchA backpack of the Dyfi group of hills, a little walked ridge traverse from Dinas Mawddwy in the east to the A487 summit pass in the west, returning to Dolgellau over the low hill country north-east of Gau Graig via the old restricted byway.

This route was a good choice for a predicted warm and sunny Easter weekend with hordes of walkers on more popular hills and some disruption on public transport in other areas. A noon start meant that we saw a mere handful of walkers on Maesglase and nobody else at all thereafter.

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Hadrian’s Wall 4-day backpack

Walton CragsA 3½-day solo training backpack of the popular Hadrian’s Wall national trail, or Hadrian’s Way as it is signed at the eastern end near Wallsend Metro station.

A weather forecast for several days of dry conditions with a persistent fresh easterly air stream gave a rare opportunity to hike it east-to-west with the wind at my back the whole way. The first day was grey and murky, no great loss since the easternmost section is largely urban, but the rest were much better than expected and mainly sunny throughout, perfect for this route that has lurked on a back burner for years.

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Northern Mawddach Way 2-day backpack

Dawn sky at tent pitchA continuation trip to our Southern Mawddach Way (MW) backpack of September 2018 to complete the trail.

The weather was far superior to the cautious forecast, clear skies and unbroken sunshine throughout, surpassing even the very warm and highly unusual conditions on our Langdale Fells backpack of February 2008. On this trip it was decidely hot in the middle of the day and we were occasionally praying for a breeze to kick in. Our previous record of 29th. February 2004 for the earliest butterfly was also broken, we saw several peacocks and other unidentified specimens.

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Around Glencoyne 2-day backpack

Pitch on Green SideA 2-day route around the hills bordering Glencoyne, starting at the popular and well maintained Aira Force woodland path. The line ascends along the slopes of Watermillock Common to Hart Side and Green Side reaching the highest point at Stybarrow Dodd, then returns via Sticks Pass to ascend Sheffield Pike and finish along the Greenside Mine track to Glenridding.

On this our first midwinter backpack for years, the weather fell far short of our expectation from the forecast and yielded only brief sunshine in the middle of the first day, the remainder was thickly overcast with a dull, flat light that drained the landscape of colour and struggled to produce good views and images. The oddest aspect though was the total absence of snow on even the highest summits in early January.

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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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