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.

Full report & photos

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.

Full report & photos

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.