Wessenden, Black Hill & Chew 2-day backpack

Pitch at Red RatcherA 2-day linear trek in the north-western corner of the Dark Peak.

The route from Marsden passes the Butterley and Wessenden group of reservoirs, joining the Pennine Way (PW) to ascend to Black Hill, one of our old haunts going back to the days when it maintained its reputation as a peat megabog resembling the aftermath of trench warfare, but is now tamed and sanitized by paving across much of its traverse, but not all – the very wet January conditions made progress slow on the boggy bits.

Near Laddow Rocks our line departs the PW to ascend to Black Chew Head, then follows the path across Laddow Moss to Chew reservoir.

This time our faith in the various weather forecasts for clear tops and some sunshine was misplaced: the thick windblown mist persisted on the high ground for the entire two days, a dank and dismal trek leaving only the wild atmosphere of the bleak moorland to savour. At Chew reservoir we improvised a lower level route than planned to reach Mossley using the Oldham Way and Tame Valley Way.

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South-West Bleaklow & Kinder 2-day backpack

Pitch near Kinder DownfallA 2-day linear trek in the south-western regions of Bleaklow and the Kinder Scout plateau. The ascent to Bleaklow is via Doctor’s Gate and crossing Glead Hill to the Kinder massif via the Pennine Way to Mill Hill. The south-western edges are followed past Kinder Downfall and Kinder Low to descend via Golden Clough and Ringing Roger.

After a long and generally dismal autumn, we were quickly back to the short days of winter. A two-day promising weather window called for a simple nearby route easily accessible via public transport where we could utilize all the available daylight. The first day of this linear station-to-station trek was clear and sunny once we reached the high ground of Bleaklow, quite warm too, but the second featured thick windblown mist until midday.

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Gritstone Trail 2-day backpack

Trig and topograph on The CloudThe Gritstone Trail (GT) is a waymarked route that traverses the gritstone ridges on the western edge of the Peak District overlooking the Cheshire plain.

A September forecast for two days of late sunny weather after the end of the holiday season suggested a perfect opportunity to tackle this trail whose best features include the extensive views over the Cheshire plain. It turned out to be almost a repeat of the sweltering conditions earlier this year with temperatures in the high twenties and the views were hazy in the distance, though still good.

The GT contains a good mix of walking and interest, with many sections of fine woodland mixed with the characteristic gritstone paths reminiscent of those of the eastern White Peak. There are also sections on metalled surfaces that need good footwear cushioning. The trail is well waymarked with accurately oriented direction arrows, but needs a careful eye open for the marks and posts particularly where other trails and footpaths pass through the same area.

I found this backpack hard, partly no doubt due to the heat, but there is quite a lot of ascent involved, though not nearly as much as mapping software suggests. On the first day I had to walk at a relentless pace on the last few miles to make my intended pitch on the upper flank of Tegg’s Nose by nightfall – that turned out to be an interesting experience. It was also one of those very rare occasions where I pitched using just the tent inner with no flysheet and watched the stars through the mesh.

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Taith Ardydwy Way 3-day backpack

Pitch at Llyn Eiddew-bachThe Taith Ardudwy Way is a low-to-mid level waymarked trail that traverses the ancient commote of Ardudwy, a mediaeval administrative area, through the western fringes and foothills of the Rhinogydd. It passes sites of historical interest and presents wide coastal and mountain views.

After the sweltering exertions of the Arenig trip last month, this modest trail gave an opportunity for a more relaxed backpack over three days allowing two half days for travelling. Most of the trail is on excellent easy tracks and paths, virtually deserted and well waymarked apart from one critical point noted in the description. Just one short section had harder, slower going due to the bracken: this stretch had the best heather and rock scenery of the route but, when the flowers are resplendent with colour, the bracken is at its most vigorous and over head-height, swallowing the path and some of the marker posts and hiding the rocks.

Our expectations were exceeded here, particularly in the wild northern section that has splendid easy walking, the highlight being a superb pitch on the first night at Llyn Eiddew-bach at the foot of the rough Rhinog heartland. Another fine spot on the second night was the pitch at LLyn Irddyn below the craggy facade of Llawlech.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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