Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca
Showing posts with label Herefordshire. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Herefordshire. Show all posts

Friday, 18 March 2016

How to Retain an Audience?


You need a good story. They woke up when I started to tell them about my appearance in Private Eye…

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

12/13 March 2016 - Rentahostel in Kington


It’s that time of year again. Sue W organises a ‘rentahostel’ weekend whereby about thirty of her old mates enjoy sole occupancy of a youth hostel, with volunteers contributing to the breakfasts and Saturday night’s meal. It all makes for quite an economical weekend, this year’s total costs amounting to less than £40 per person, despite some lavish catering.

About thirty ‘mates’ assembled on Friday evening in the Herefordshire town of Kington, mostly in the nearby and apparently very welcoming Oxford Arms, where the landlord was reported to be a star, and the food delicious. Sue and I had eaten at home and were late to arrive after our two and a half hour journey.

Saturday morning – whilst a small splinter group headed for the Black Mountains, a large group of over twenty walkers preferred to walk directly from the hostel. It’s an ideal place to start a walk, with many options from the town’s position straddling the Offa’s Dyke footpath and a number of other trails.

After a little debate, everyone seemed happy with a circular clockwise route starting with a walk up Hergest Ridge on the Offa’s Dyke path. Here are some of them getting ready at our youth hostel base, a fine building that until a few years ago served as a cottage hospital.


We strolled up the narrow main street of Kington, a border town that for business now relies heavily on its status as a walking centre.

The wild boar and fallow deer that roam the streets are culled by the local butcher and offered as ‘street kill’ to passing punters.


We paused to read a plaque that informed us that in 1892 only 1% of the town’s dwellings had a bath and tap, and none had a hot water system. It may also have explained that despite being only two miles from the Welsh border, the town has been English for over 1000 years. There’s more information on Kington here.

We ambled slowly up Hergest Ridge, admiring hazy views south towards the Black Mountains.


Monkey puzzle trees grow in a small copse near the summit. Perhaps the nearby Hergest Croft Gardens have something to do with their presence?

There's a good bench and a plaque in memory of a local lady who died in 2006, sadly at the age of fifty.


Jon and I shared the bench for an hour or so whilst the others caught up.

There were limited views through the haze as we ascended the ridge.

The ghost of a chap called Sir Thomas, and also that of the Black Dog of Hergest are said to haunt the area around Hergest Ridge. The Black Dog's sighting reputedly presages death. It is also rumoured to have been the prototype for The Hound of the Baskervilles, as Conan Doyle is known to have stayed at nearby Hergest Hall shortly before he wrote the novel. Phil was the only person to spot the dog*.

We duly reached a trig point at 423 metres, but this wasn’t the summit, despite its good views towards the Black Mountains.


Nearby, at 426 metres, there’s a jumble of rocks, just a bit higher than the trig point, with a distinctive ‘pointy’ rock signifying the summit.

Keith made a futile bid to reach the pointy rock (the high point is near his left hand), whilst GS strode on manfully towards the border with Wales.


I'd intended to go round the side of Hanter Hill (414 metres), but the troops rebelled and shot off up to the summit, from where Robin and Josh took time out to admire the view during their half hour wait for the slower contingent.


To the left was a vision over a Welsh quarry (Dolyhir), a highly industrial landscape.

A sharp descent brought us back down to Lower Hanter. The folk who had rushed up Hanter Hill had perhaps not realised that they were already quite high and the descent through gorse could be a little tiresome, so they elected to go around the next two hills, skirting both Worsell Wood and Navages Wood before 1pm. En route we spotted a pair of peregrine falcons, gliding gracefully beside a rock face. During the weekend we also saw many buzzards, a few red kites, a hedgerow of yellowhammers, a hillside of skylarks, siskins and many commoner species.

"It's lunch time" announced Sue, her eyes glued to her Fitbit watch, arriving after the people at the front had already started eating theirs.


After another half hour break (actually 31 minutes 29 seconds, 1 minute 29 seconds longer than scheduled – I’ve been reading ‘The Rosie Project’) we were ready to shuffle off again.

GS left us near here, after fields containing new born lambs, to skirt around Herrock Hill and dash back to the Oxford Arms to expand his waist line in front of a TV. (England 25 – Wales 21)

Five of us continued to join the Mortimer Trail, whilst everyone else tackled Herrock Hill (371 metres). Here they are, some of them following the ancient line of Offa's Dyke. We were puzzled by their desire to go over the top of the hill rather than follow the Offa’s Dyke path around the side of it…


Our longer but more staid route passed this lovely half-timbered farmhouse at Knill.


The path soon rose gently through pleasant woodland to the top of Little Brampton Scar, at the top of which we enjoyed a lovely stroll along the Mortimer Trail. The five of us decided to abandon Plan A (the long circuit via the Mortimer and the Herefordshire Trails) due to the many half hour breaks, and head back to Kington via Kennel Cottage, Rushock and Barton. It turned out to be an excellent and fairly quick route.

Here's what the twenty plus starters had been whittled down to - Martin, Ken, Edwina, Sue and Jon. Note that Sue had to stay with this group as I had her ‘supplies’, her rucksack having carelessly been left at home. Fortunately it didn’t rain, nor were her absent hat and gloves necessary.


Beyond a very light coloured buzzard on a gatepost and some bare fields with sheep in poor condition, we found Kennel Cottage also to be in quite a poor state of repair, but was pleasantly surrounded by snowdrops.

We finished the walk about ten minutes after the Herrock Hill group, touching on the Offa’s Dyke path then taking an old tramway route through the town to reach the hostel with virtually no tarmac.

Despite recent rain, today's walk was on a consistently dry surface. Here's our route - 23 km, 700 metres ascent, taking 7 hours including about 10 hours of breaks.


Sunday – after an enjoyable evening with superb food, capped by Richard and Jenny’s salmon with leek & mushrooms wrapped in puff pastry served with roasted veg, most of us assembled at the memorial in New Radnor for a modest Sunday stroll in the Radnor Forest, over the border in Wales.


The 21 metre (77ft) recently restored memorial was erected in 1864 to commemorate Sir George Cornewall Lewis (1806-63), a barrister, politician, and man of letters whose family home was nearby. I wonder whether he enjoyed the luxury of a hot water system. From what I can find out about him I think he probably deserved the occasional hot bath.

Soon, around twenty of us were tramping up Mutton Dingle, with Hillhouse Farm standing out in an otherwise very hazy view. Closer to hand, Sue discovered the aftermath of a fatal accident. Out of consideration to my audience, I have decided not to show the maggot ridden skeleton of the deceased cyclist.


Near Whinyard Rocks we took a dogleg up to the 599 metre summit of Whimble. It was a lovely day, but views were very limited due to the haze.


Then we wandered along to the 610 metre summit of Bache Hill, after which we continued to slowly gain height on the way to our next target, Black Mixen (650 metres), marked by a trig point next to a communications mast.

I’d followed a good track to the summit, whereas the others followed a shorter but much rougher, perhaps pathless, route.

Then they took another cross country route to reach the high point of the day, Great Rhos (660 metres), whereas my knees preferred to use the nearby tracks.

There were hazy views down Harley Dingle.


Some folk had peeled off after Whimble. The rest of us peeled off after Great Rhos, leaving Keith and Carol to complete a longer circuit via some waterfalls.

Phil found what he took to be a submarine; he chatted at length to the crew through the periscope. They told him they'd been blown off course.


It was a steep and slithery descent to a Danger Sign that is marked on the Ordnance Survey map. Whimble is the distinctive hill on the right.


After a while, on a sunny afternoon in improving weather, we concluded the final descent to the ancient walled town of New Radnor. The roads seemed to be pretty much empty for most of our way home.


Here's my route - 16 km, 600 metres ascent, taking a little over 5 hours. Others took shortcuts.


There’s a slideshow (68 images) here.

The ‘Marilyns’ we climbed were Hergest Ridge and Great Rhos.

Previous ‘rentahostel’ weekends:
2015 – Slaidburn
2014 – Welsh Bicknor
2013 – Helmsley
2012 – Wooler
2011 – Eskdale
2010 – Caldbeck
2009 – Helvellyn (Part 1)
2009 – Helvellyn (Part 2)
2009 – Helvellyn (Part 3)

* – Phil has a vivid imagination. He spotted the dog from a remote spot in the Black Mountains.**

** – whose imagination did I report as being vivid? My watch seems also to have accelerated a little during our breaks this weekend. No offence is intended to anyone who may perceive themselves to be victims of such minor exaggerations that may have crept into this story.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Eleven Hills in Shropshire and Herefordshire


Here are a few pictures and maps to supplement the previous three postings on my recent trip to eleven airy summits. There’s also an annotated slideshow here.

1. Caer Caradoc Hill (459 metres): here’s Martin S on the summit.


Our route was 6.5km, with 300 metres ascent, taking 1 hour 30 minutes.


2. Wapley Hill (329 metres): Martin thinks he’s on the summit.


Our route was 3.7km, with 120 metres ascent, taking 1 hour.


3. Shobdon Hill (326 metres): I think I’m on the summit.


Our route was 4.9km, with 230 metres ascent, taking 1 hour 20 minutes.


4. Bradnor Hill (391 metres): Martin S is definitely standing at the summit cairn!


Our route was 3.7km, with 100 metres ascent, taking 40 minutes.


5. Hergest Ridge (426 metres): I am undisputedly standing on the highest point of the hill.


Our route was 6km, with 170 metres ascent, taking 1 hour 20 minutes.


6. Burton Hill (294 metres): sunlit views guided us to a muddy track.


Martin scrabbled around in dense brambles before declaring this point the summit.


Our route was 8.8km, with 330 metres ascent, taking 2 hours.


7. Titterstone Clee Hill (533 metres): on my own now, with thick fog below the sunlit summit.


My route was 1.7km, with 110 metres ascent, taking 25 minutes.


8. View Edge (321 metres): where the summit is in the middle of a private bluebell wood.


The start and finish of this walk passes by Stokesay Castle.


My route was 6km, with 220 metres ascent, taking 1 hour 45 minutes.


9. Callow Hill (334 metres): if this trig point is the summit, indeed, the highest point on Wenlock Edge, it’s deceptively so.


My route was 2.2km, with 130 metres ascent, taking 40 minutes.


10. Burrow (358 metres): I lunched here on the summit, surrounded by Iron Age ramparts.


My route was 4.5km, with 230 metres ascent, taking 1 hour 15 minutes.


11. Heath Mynd (452 metres): here I am, standing on my final summit cairn of the 48 hour trip, on a lovely sunny afternoon.


My route was 3km, with 160 metres ascent, taking 1 hour.


As mentioned above, there’s an annotated slideshow here…. for the unwary to plough through. I enjoyed compiling it anyway, despite battling with the hazy images.

Happy Days!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Tuesday 17 March 2015 - Some Shropshire and Herefordshire Hills

An early (ish) start from Woofferton found us somewhere near Byton and Wapley Hill by 8.15. We walked up the hill past frolicking deer and chattery chaffinches. The summit was within an interesting area of Iron Age and medieval settlements and hill fort structures, but there was no view due to high pressure mizzle. It took about an hour for the 4km circuit. Time for some tea and brownies at a picnic bench in the car park.

A short drive to Byton found us back on the Mortimer Trail that we'd discovered earlier. That led us up to near the summit of Shobdon Hill, the actual summit being somewhere next to a track in the middle of a wood. Limited views. Still misty. 5km in an hour and twenty minutes.

We then drove to Kington and knocked off Bradnor Hill. By now the weather was brighter and we had some views. Not being in an Iron Age settlement nor in the middle of a wood helped. We were at the top of a golf course. Tuneful skylarks vied with a kestrel for space in the sky. Our 4km circuit from the club house took about 40 minutes, and we could have halved that if we'd driven further up the golf course. 

Do you detect a theme? Martin S is a 'hill bagger'. He 'collects' Marilyns - hills with a relative height of 500 feet in relation to their closest 'relation'. These hills are all 'Marilyns'.

It was now time for a break in the 'walkers village' of Kington, where the Border Bean café provided drinks and excellent bean pesto soup.

Suitably refreshed, we crossed the valley and headed up Hergest Ridge, where (you guessed it?) the summit achieves a relative height of over 500 feet. By now the sun was shining and the skylarks were still warbling energeticaly. At 426 metres this was our high point of the day. Martin S celebrated by dancing on the summit (pictured above)(before he fell over). Returning the same way, this 6km jaunt took nearly an hour and a half. 

Then a 10 mile drive to Weobley put us in position for our final ascent of the day, up Burton Hill. This started pleasantly enough. But after passing a JCB that was on 'drainage duty', we encountered ever deeper mud that eventually gave way to trouser ripping brambles as we floundered in dense woodland, searching for the highest point of the hill (a 'bagging' requirement) before adjourning to the trig point that was on a lower path. More mud and a rejection of our planned descent route saw us enjoying the afternoon sunshine on the long ridge, before returning to the car via 3km of 'not too bad' tarmac beside a variety of Herefordshire apple orchards. 9km in a little over two hours. 

Phew - that was the best part of 28km and 800 metres ascent. Not surprising that we got back to our Travelodge base some 10 hours after leaving it this morning. 

Luckily, the Salwey Arms was on good form again and saw to all our needs.

An excellent day, in lovely weather.