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Black Pudding Gaiters

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New boots, new app, new route.

Apart from a handful of walks and a couple of camping trips, I’ve hardly left the Wirral peninsula since early 2020, but, to quote Half Man Half Biscuit, “Everything I want is here, and everything I need is here”. I’ve become content with walks on the Oblong of Dreams.

Although still remaining on the peninsula for this walk, I was venturing across the border in to Cheshire. It is less than 15 minutes drive from my house to the starting point from where I’d planned a 12 ish mile route from the Hadlow Road car park further in to Cheshire, towards Burton.

It was a walk of firsts;
* I was finally getting to try out the Scarpa Crux approach shoes I got at Christmas. Lack of annual leave and several storms meant little opportunity to get them out of their box.
* Now that ViewRanger had finally been turned off, it was time to see what Outdoor Active could do.
* I was covering a number of new footpaths for me on this route.

I’d already planned the route on my laptop using the Outdoor Active website. It was easy to do and the ‘snap to’ function worked reasonably well for most of the walk, however, when I picked a path it didn’t recognise, I was sent on a long detour.
An easy fix is to click on the magnet button on the bottom tool bar (see image on left)
After setting this to be ‘route’ and not just a ‘plan’, it appeared on the phone app and I was ready to go (a plan being an initial ‘rough sketch’ of the walk) .

Sparpa Crux ladies shoes

After getting the car in the last parking spot, I changed in to the Scarpas.
I’d owned the Scarpa Epic shoes previously. They had lasted well but were not as grippy as other footwear I’ve owned.
The Crux were so comfy as soon as I put them on. They share a similar design to the Epic. The Epic shoes are very blue with bright yellow bits. whereas the Crux are a more subtle dark grey with sky blue trim and laces.
Sorry, ‘shark and blue radiance.’
The ‘Vibram Megagrip’ sole design was slightly different too and, I soon discovered, worked well in the slippery muddy conditions.

I fired up the walking route on my phone and clicked ‘Start’. The tracking started automatically. So far so good, although I still had the OS Map app running in the background, a paper map in my sack and tracking running on my watch, just in case.

I started down the easy to follow Wirral Way, past Leahurst Veterinary School then took a left on to Cuckoo Lane. The route briefly took me to the side of a housing estate before passing a playground on the path down to the Dee Marshes.

Once at the marshes, the path became slightly busier. It was a Friday morning in February so I expect it could get very busy on a summer weekend. I was soon turning off though, taking Station Road up to Burton, a lovely village filled with thatched cottages, an old church and woodland area. It gets a mention in the Doomsday book and apparently, back in the day was a rest stop on the journey between Birkenhead and London.

Burton village, Wirral


The Outdoor Active app was also behaving itself. On previous tests it would often display a black screen with no information on it. No such problems today. The tracking was accurate and the OS mapping clear. Maybe it was finally winning me over! *

Lake Burton RSPB

Looking at the map, I’d noticed “Burton Point”, the site of an Iron Age fort. While I was here, it made sense to go and check it out. There were paths just off the road out of Burton.
Entering the woods near Puddington Lane, I passed a ‘Welcome to the RSPB Reserve’ sign and continued on through to the car park.
From there I headed towards a building. Three people were sat outside.
“Hello” calls one, “Are you just here for a wander round?”
I was, and was charged £6 to do so.
I was rather taken aback, I was literally passing through and hadn’t noticed any other signs mentioning an entry fee, although it is mentioned on their website.

Everyone else here had binoculars, large camera lenses, tripoded monoculars or a combination of all three. They’d stop dead in the middle of the path and turn their gaze to a dot in the sky.
Three men were discussing a particular ‘spot’,
“I saw it first!”,
“Yes, but I identified it”.
I felt like an away fan in the home end.

The views over to Wales were lovely although there’s little to see of the fort now. I noticed another footpath out of the reserve but that was padlocked. I may have climbed over if it wasn’t for the older couple sat next to it. So, I turned and went back the way I came.

To be fair, if you go to look for wildlife it is worth the entrance but I wouldn’t recommend it for the walk to the fort. **
I retraced my steps to the village but took Mudhouse Lane to the A540. After crossing, it was footpaths right the way through to the Wirral Way and back to the car.

This route is available to download from Outdoor Active as a GPX file



*The love of Outdoor Active was short lived. The following week I took another walk. The route vanished three times and the tracking only recorded 5 of the 12 miles

** Sadly, shortly after I started to write this post the area was ravaged by fire causing concerns for the wildlife. The reserve probably needs all the support it can get – go visit!

Finally out in the tent again!

Flicking through my phone’s photos, I was surprised to find my last camping trip was tent months ago. Since then, we’ve been locked down yet again and Covid related work has been keeping me busy in the (home) office.
To depress me further, Google photos kept popping up reminders; x years ago you were in Slovenia, Andorra, Bavaria, Italy….. There was no chance of a nice week away in Europe this year so time to get the tent back out!

After a few cancelled/unapproved leave requests I’d finally managed to secure three days. One of these days I was getting my Covid vaccine so that left two days for a trip to North Wales.
This trip was a “two bag camp”, basically, one big rucksack with the camping gear and a smaller bag for drinks, first aid kit, map etc.
Bwlchgwyn was somewhere I’d stumbled upon on Google maps. A village most famous for NOT being the highest in Wales!
It looked like it could be a good place for walking, I just had to hope I didn’t have to ask for directions to there!*

Minera Quarry,Wrexham

The Wrexham Council website had a nice route but, it was only 5 miles. I wanted something that would last me the day. My route would take me through the village, on to Llandegla forest via Esclusham mountain.
Viewranger optimistically said this would be around 10 miles.

The first footpaths I hit coming out of Bwlchgwyn were very, very over grown. I circled a field at one point in search of a stile which led to another path that became almost impossible to follow.
This path came to a road out of the village. The quiet stretch of tarmac gave my arms a chance to recover before the next onslaught of evil, sharp branches near Ffordd Isaf.
I left the route for a little detour to look around Minera Quarry, once the largest lime works in North Wales.
The quarry once had it’s own steam locomotive and I followed what was once the railway line towards the path climbing Esclsham Mountain.

Just before the path spat me out on to the road, I stopped to take in the lovely views which stretched on for miles and miles.
I remained on the road for a while Here the views were mostly sheep and moorland. On the whole, this is a rather featureless mountain but, at least I couldn’t get lost following a strip of tarmac. I soon longed for the easily navigable when I left the road and headed North along the moorland towards the forest!

 Esclusham mountain view and sheep, Wrexham, North Wales

At times, the path was easy to spot but, quite often, what appeared to be a footpath could actually be a route made by sheep. Other times, there was no clear way through at all. Even on this dry, hot July day, I couldn’t tell if my foot was about to sink in to something squelchy. For me, this type of terrain is second only to scree for being my least favourite to walk on.
Armed with my compass, clutched firmly in hand, and frequent checks on my GPS, amazingly, not only did I make my way to the forest entrance but also I’d strayed very little from the path. I’d like to put it down to my navigation skills but suspect it was mostly luck!!

Pendinas reservoir Llandegla

It was nice to have a complete change of scene in the forest. Gone was the featureless carpet of green and bog, now I saw trees, wild flowers and obvious footpaths.

I stopped for a while at the beautiful Pendinas Reservoir, grabbed my flask and consulted the OS map. From here, the plan was to retrace my steps back to the moors but take the path to the left, heading to a quarry.

Navigation along this part of the moors was easier, having a fence as a handrail to my right hand side.
Things became confusing at the farm at the end of the moors. The one bent footpath sign wasn’t clear but the gate wasn’t padlocked, always a good sign!
I could see two people in a field working with horses. I kept my head down and kept walking. Nobody shouted. Maybe I had stayed on the correct route but I decided not to linger.
I couldn’t find either of the footpaths I wanted across fields to the edge of the quarry, instead I joined the road and followed that until I saw an obvious footpath heading in the right direction.

Overgrown stile walk Llandegla
There’s a stile here somewhere!

There’s several paths around the old quarry and a number of old buildings which you can walk around.

The nice, easy to follow routes didn’t last long. I headed to the left hand side of the next quarry where things were slightly overgrown!
I spent most of this walk wishing I had a scythe. My rucksack became a ‘battering ram’ against the bushes and brambles. Not only was the path almost impossible to see, a few strategically placed, stealth rocks impeded progress somewhat. It was nice to reach the terra firma of the roads in the village once more.

14 miles later (not the 10 predicated), I’d completed the route. Ususally, I post GPX files for download. I wouldn’t recommend this one though!

So, in this “two bag camp”, it was time to switch from the little sack to the bigger one containing the tent, bedtime things and the most important bits, beer and dinner!
I was using the MSR tent this evening. As it was so warm, it was tempting to use it in it’s inner only configuration.

Dinner was a first for me, a dehydrated bolognaise orzo pasta from Frirepot. I usually buy the wet, Wayfayrer meals but Firepot was just as tasty, lighter, contained more calories (I felt I’d earned them!) and it was far less messy. I’ll definitely be investigating more on their menu!
Drink came from Black Lodge Brewery in Liverpool and it tasted so good after the long, hot, sweaty walk!

Breakfast was slightly less adventurous, porridge and coffee. My one ‘must have’ luxury when camping is my Wacaco Barista Kit. I can get by without many things, but decent coffee in the morning isn’t one of them!
After packing up and, obviously, leaving no trace, it was back to the small bag and a walk around Llandegla forest. This area is more famous for it’s mountain bike trails but there’s a number of walks, each clearly marked with coloured posts. I took the 7 mile (plus a couple of little detours) yellow, Moorland View path. I have made this route available to download as a GPX, however, it is very well signed.

Back at the main car park, I noticed that the cafe serves meals until 21:00 on a Wednesday, perhaps something worth bearing in mind for my next over night trip!

Returning to the car, I calculated I’d walked 30 miles over the last two days. 30 hot, humid, verging on lost miles. But it was so good to be back!

* in case you’re wondering Bull-ch-gwin

Lockdown, a year on.

It’s now been a year since all this Covid malarkey first really kicked in and a very strange year it’s been.

All the plans made in 2020 were cancelled or postponed and the most excitement has been a couple of camping trips and day walks in the summer.
On the one hand, I’m so glad I managed to get out on the few walks I did in the Clwydian hills and Snowdonia. On the other hand, I wish I’d done more.

Our freedom was short lived and so soon we found ourselves back under more stringent lockdown rules. Wales was closed to us once more.

Church in Neston

I’d been bimbling around, close to home. Watching the sunrise in the local woods and taking country lanes to see where I’d end up.
I did one such walk on a day off in November and, rather naughtily, I crossed the border in to Cheshire.
It was a painless experience and I found myself in Neston.
Despite being walking distance (ish) from home, I’d never been before. The closest I got was Ness Gardens where, as a kid on a school trip, I fell head first in to lake trying to catch tadpoles.

Neston is a nice enough place. The usual shops but with an old market town feel and plenty of little nooks and crannies to explore.
The walk round the back of the church is pleasant and leads on to the Wirral Way with great views over to the Welsh hills.

The Wirral Way would be a possibility to get home but my return leg was mostly on pavements alongside the roads.
I did manage to get off road for a shore while walking an extremely muddy bridleway.
Most of the quagmire had been caused by cyclists. I’ve been cursing them a lot this past year.

Those that would have been riding around the tracks of Delamere or Llandegla were now turning their attention to footpaths.
At best, you find a route unwalkable. Fat bike tyre marks cutting though narrow footpaths At worst, a Lycra clad granddad on an over specced and over priced bike comes hurtling downhill towards you and the old couple walking their dog and small grandchild….
…..but I digress.
I was on a bridle way so I can’t shout at them this time.

By December, things had eased a little and once again, we were allowed back across the border in to Wales.
As soon as the restrictions were lifted, I booked two days off work. Surely one of those days would have decent weather?
One did, the other was atrocious!

On the nicer of the two days, I went to one of my favourite spots, Moel Famau
I’d been here many, many times in the past but, after so few walks in 2020, it was so good to be back.
I parked up and spotted a large group of older people heading up the main path, I headed in the opposite direction.
My route took me around the hill, initially heading East, walking towards the little village of Cilcain.

The weather was beautifully sunny and I soon wishing I’d worn lighter layers but, the paths were very wet. Thick gloopy mud covered my boots and worked my way up my trousers. I did manage to wash much of the mud off as I waded through what used to be little brooks but were now quite fast moving streams.

This route is available to download as a GPX file.


We managed to have a fairly normal family Christmas day but by the new year we were back in lock down and walks were back to ‘roam from home’.
It’s tough to find the motivation especially on the cold, dark mornings. To give me an extra kick I signed up for the Lancaster 500k Challenge. This celebrated 80 years since the first flight of the Avro Lancaster. As a pilot myself, I’m keen to support such events. I managed to complete the challenge in 2 months, despite being stuck in Wirral. I’m feeling rather smug about that 🙂

I walked around the streets, woodland and country lanes a few miles from my font door.
Boots and hiking gear were the most commonly worn items on the local residential streets and most of us had become masters at zig zagging across the roads to avoid others, Unfortunately though, once again, I was sharing pavements and footpaths with cyclists.
On one occasion, I was about to unleash my wrath while pointing at the ‘No Cycling’ sign, or, more likely, shake my head and tut loudly but, as I approached the wooden post, I noticed the sign had been prised away. At this point, I was imagining the Lycra clad chapter of Hell’s Angels appearing in the dead of night, armed with tools from their puncture repair kits removing anything that may prevent them from riding wherever they fancied.
This particular cyclist continued his ride along the pavement towards a woman pushing a pram…

Generally though, early mornings were cyclist free and were a time to appreciate what was on my doorstep and explorer previously undiscovered spots.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel…maybe….

Capel Curig Camping

Bad weather is guaranteed when I book time off. It’s well known amongst my work colleagues, it’s well known amongst the flying club, but 2020 really is a strange year. I had fantastic weather for my first camp since lock down eased and the weather looked just as nice for the three days I had booked off in September.
This was another trip for my new favourite tent, the MSR Elixir 1.

Therm-a-rest compressible and Exped inflatable pillows

Something new to try on this trip too. I normally use an Exped inflatable pillow. It weighs virtually nothing, packs down tiny and can be inflated with the same inflation tool as my Exped mattress.
It’s a great design but, for me, a front sleeper who likes a squishy pillow, it just doesn’t quite work. On this trip, I also packed a Therm-A-Rest compressible pillow.
The difference in size is quite obvious in the photo, but there’s little difference in weight. Would I pack a bulkier item for a better night’s sleep?
I packed both pillows and headed off down the A5 towards Capel Curig.

There is another site a short distance from mine. A nice looking site but just a field, my site had plenty of little nooks and crannies. Places to pitch that felt a little wilder.

MSR Elixir tent pitched near Capel Curig, Snowdonia

I left the car near the facilities block, grabbed my rucksack and made my way to the far end of the site. I found a lovely little spot next to a stream. As there was no wind at all and none forecast, I could position the tent whichever way I wanted. I turned my back on the rest of the campers and pointed the door to the stream.
Beautiful.

I wandered back to the car to pick up my day sack containing a flask, digital SLR camera and a few lenses (a benefit of car camping, multiple rucksacks!) I then headed out for a bimble.
A path runs from the back of the campsite towards Capel Curig. I followed it to the first turn off to the left which led me to the A5.
The path continued on the opposite side of the road. It was initially easy to follow, heading up towards a building then crossing a stream. The path soon became less well defined and the surface was quite boggy.
At one point I got knee deep in mud. Typical! I had no spare pants. Knew I should have packed the gaiters.

Once I’d reached another stream, The Leat, I took a right and followed it before taking the path up to Llyn Cowlyd reservoir.
This was social distancing!

Llyn Cowlyd reservoir.

I sat on a rock for a while. The sun was hot and the sky clear. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions. The only thing which could have improved the day was some plane spotting. I could hear what I assumed to be Hawks from RAF Valley but nothing came into view.

Bridges on route back to A5, Capel Curig, Snowdonia

I returned back to The Leat, turning off to follow the path back down to the A5.
There were a few little wooden bridges over some patches but these only served to prove I was on the right route, the boggu ground surrounding them was full of mud and large puddles.

Back at the road, I crossed to walk on the the narrow pavement heading towards Capel Curig.
Around the back of the Joe Brown’s shop is a footpath which led straight back to the campsite.

This route is available to download as a GPX file.

After a cup of coffee by the tent, I returned to the path towards Ogwen Lake. A wander around the lake was very tempting but my stomach had other ideas. It was definitely getting close to dinner time!
After a few photos around the lake I headed back to camp. I’d timed it so I’d be on my walk during sunset. I sat on a rock and watched as the day light came to an end.

Sunset over Snowdonia
Campsite meal

Dinner was a Wayfayrer Pasta Bolognese. It was surprisingly tasty, but I was glad I had a couple of slices of home made bread to fill me up.
Maybe I’m just greedy!
Another benefit of car camping is the ‘luxury’ extras you can take. My little folding camping table proved very useful although my dining chair was a rock!

I sat on a rock by the stream for a while, drinking a beer looking at the stars. It doesn’t get much more relaxing than this.

When it came to settling down for the night, I unrolled the Therm-A-Rest pillow. It so comfortable. It also reduced the ‘electric shock’ hair I often had in the morning.
Snug in the tent, I soon fell asleep.
Sorry old inflatable pillow, you’re relegated. Maybe it’ll make a good cushion for next time I’m sat on a rock.

I woke around 6.30 and popped my head out of the door. The sun was rising over the misty fields. It looked as if it was going to be fine weather again.

Sunrise Gwern Gof Isaf campsite near Capel Curig

I sat by the stream, brewed a coffee in the Wacaco (my little camping luxury) and make an Oat So Simple porridge.
I definitely had brought my appetite with me. Deciding that one porridge just wasn’t enough, I made another espresso coffee and a second pot of porridge.

After breakfast(s!), I packed the camping gear away. The outside of the tent was wet, I assume the rain they had back home in the day reached me overnight. Inside the tent was bone dry though. The tent has two vents each end and they obviously did the trick at eliminating condensation.

Everything packed up, I drove to Capel Curig. From the car park, I headed over the road and took the path next to the church. The route soon changed from fields of sheep to woodland. The path was fairly easy to follow and not challenging, some times, that’s exactly what you want!
The views were both beautiful and varied; mountains, lakes, streams.
A lot of the return leg is along a road but this is a quiet road, only two vehicles passed me during the walk.
This route is also available for download.

Capel curig walk

I returned to the car full of mud, sheep poo and other unmentionables but happy. A fantastic couple of days and just what was needed. To round the trip off the roof went down on the Abarth 124 for a very enjoyable blast around the Welsh roads.

Trovat Advanced High GTX Boot Review

My old trusty Brasher Hill Master boots had walked their last mile. Even on fairly dry days, my feet would end up soggy after walking through the shallowest of puddles.
Brasher became part of Berghaus  and continued to produce the Hillmaster. These boots get some very good reviews but, I fancied a change and started reading up.

My ‘go to’ walking shoes are my Mammut Convey GTX approach shoes. Comfortable and reliable on most walks, but, I like a more robust shoe for more challenging weather and conditions.

Many years ago, my first pair of approach shoes were by the Swiss brand Raichle. These were fantastic shoes and we covered many, many  miles together. Now, like Brasher, the brand has been re-badged and has now come under the Mammut umbrella.

Mammut walking boots

I was drawn to the Mammut Trovat Advanced High GTX Boot
At £185 this was above what I was looking to spend, however, I had a £50 voucher for Snow and Rock which made the price rather less daunting.
These brown nubuck leather boots with rubber heel and toe protection have a slightly more ‘old school’ look than many modern boots but, unlike the ‘old school’ boots, these are instantly comfortable.
The nappa leather and memory foam help make these boots very easy to wear.
They certainly look built to last.
There’s a little bit of Raichle still retained too, their logo is displayed on the inside of the tongue.

Raichle Mammut walking boots

These are a big boot, my size 8s  just fitted in my boot bag although at 1,240g they  weigh only a few grams more than the old Hillmaster boots.

As I started loading the car for my first walk in the new boots,  I realised I was wearing Mammut pants and a Mammut jumper. Along with the Mammut boots, I would risk looking like a bad catalogue picture.  Luckily, as it  it was raining so I grabbed my Arcteryx Waterproof to break things up a bit!   Perhaps I was over cautious but I threw my approach shoes in the car, just in case.

The weather forecast fluctuated between dry, drizzle and large down pours – pack for everything!
Driving down the A55 with lights and windscreen wipers on suggested this wasn’t going to be the dryest of walks! At least it would be a good test of the Gortex and the Vibram MT Traction II sole.

Grip Mammut walking boots

My original plan was to park up in Moel Famau and head up a few hills but, as the road to the car park was closed, I turned back towards the car park in Loggerheads for Plan B.
After parking the car I change from my Addidas trainers in to the boots. Yes, they are heavy but so comfortable. Not sure I’d want to be wearing them on a hot summer day though.
I tighten the laces, assuming that I’m going to have to change the tightness a number of times until I got it right but, I struck lucky first time.

The first test was a very wet wooden bridge. So far, so grippy!  My route continued through muddy woodland and over wet stones, none of which caused any problems. These are boots you can feel confident wearing.

I always pack a spare pair of socks. I’ve needed them on walks even on dry days wearing the Brasher boots, one puddle and that was it! In my Mammut boots, however, I was bone dry despite the persistent rain and walking through some long wet grass.

If you look after your kit, your kit will look after you. These boots are very easy to look after. A quick wipe down with warm water and a soft brush and they were as good as new.

In conclusion, the Trovat Advanced boots are on the high end of price points but you do get what you pay for. I’m really impressed with these boots and they certainly seem to cope well with any terrain thrown at them.

Lockdown Continues

In March 2020, we began the Covid-19 lock down. As we got to April, it was clear than things weren’t going to change any time soon.
Back in March, it was a novelty working from home and spending the allowed exercise time discovering new paths a short walk from home. Now, the novelty was wearing thin.
A camping and concert visit to the Lake District was put back a year. A weekend football tournament in Crawley was cancelled. At least I got the money back from Premier Inn without any hassle. Big thanks to them!
We had to postpone the traditional Mother’s Day meal and a family birthday get together.

Annoyingly, for a country with so few bank holidays, most of them occurred during lock down and the weather has been fantastic. I would have loved to have been in the Welsh hills with my tent, instead I was wandering the lanes, paths and bridleways of Wirral.

Some of my routes headed across Brombrorough golf course. Interestingly, on the first few walks, the route across the course was marked with a few small, wooden pointers. Later, large arrows were painted on the grass and tees. I suspect more people were walking and some were getting a bit lost!

This is a footpath. Benty Heath Lane
This is a footpath!

After the golf course, the footpath passes to the side of a crop field with the M53 motorway on the right.
Taking a right on the road at the end of the field brings you out on to Bentey Heath Lane, passing Hargreave House Cottages.
Walking from the golf course, this route is clear but if doing the walk the other way around it’s not so obvious.
From the road you see painted ‘Private!’ signs and the footpath sign have been removed.
The bridge over the motorway has a piece of graffiti saying “f*** the farmer”, I do wonder if it was written by a disgruntled walker!

One of my ‘new’ walks was around Raby. I’ve made this walk available to download but altered it to start and end at Merseyrail train stations. I’ll be doing this walk again post lock down and popping in to the lovely, thatched Wheatsheaf Inn for a drink or two!

Friday 8th May was a bank holiday marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
I used the day as an opportunity for a longer walk.
I had to alter my route as the footpath to the side of Clatterbridge hospital was closed. This meant taking a slightly longer route along roads, luckily they were still very quiet.
The route intended to take is available on ViewRanger. I’ve tweaked it slightly to start and finish at Bromborough Rake train station

June started off in much the same way as the previous months but with the added disappointment of the cancellation of the holiday to Zakopane in Poland. At least most of my money will be refunded, apart from the part I’d booked with LastMinute.com. I certainly won’t be using them again post lockdown and wouldn’t recommend any one else do either!

And now, well, it’s cold and it’s wet and there’s few signs of normality returning any time soon.
I’m looking forward to the time when we can pop to Primark to pick up our “I survived Covid-19” t-shirts….until that time, stay safe out there.

Slovenia 2019

All quiet on the blog recently, WordPress has decided not to work on Chrome, it’s a little wobbly on Edge too…
….Anyway, June 2019 (yes it really has taken me that long to complete this post!). Another year, another trip to Slovenia.
This was a rather impromptu and virtually free trip using the money I’d built up via TopCashBack…..and I gained more cashback with my booking!

I set an alarm (and a backup alarm!) for 02.30. Argh!
On the bright side the roads were quiet . 
Sadly, things went downhill at the rather chaotic Manchester airport. A queue had formed just to get upstairs to the check in area! To avoid this, I went into the multi story car park and used the stairs there.
When I arrived at check-in for my TUI flight, there was the usual very, very long queue which seems common with all their flights.

Airside, I filled up my empty plastic flask with water from the fountain (saves few quid!), bought a much needed coffee and an egg & (apparently) bacon baguette for the flight.

Arriving at the gate, I was told one of the toilets on the aircraft was not working. The flight would be delayed while they attempted to fix the problem. I plugged my phone in to charge and waited…..
I was due to fly on the new Boeing 737 Max, however, following a couple of accidents, every aircraft of that type had been grounded. We were now flying on an Olympus Airways Airbus A321. This resulted in some faffing due to the changes to seat configuration once we did get onboard. 
Our Greek crew eventually got us airborne 40 minutes later than scheduled.

A couple of hours later, we arrived in Austria. From here it was a three hour trip in a minibus over the border to Kranjska Gora.

My room in Pension Milka was comfortable and a good size for a single room but the best feature was the view!!

View from balcony Pension Milka Kranjska Gora, Slovenia

After unpacking, I made my way downstairs on to the outside eating area. I was staying half board which included a three course evening meal. There was no choice, you got what you were given, but the quality was phenomenal.
The ‘amuse-bouche’ was a beetroot bread with smoked butter and hummus. All home made. Next came celery, bacon and walnut soup .
Main course was duck with beetroot reduction. A lavender panna cotta with berries rounded off this fantastic meal.

The next morning I woke at around 07:15 to the sound of grass cutting. They start early here! 
I helped myself to a selection of ham, cheese, bread and cereal while a very nice ‘proper’ Americano coffee was prepared for me.

After breakfast, I headed out, up the road to path 7 towards Vrisc. This was a very easy route to follow. Taking a left from the hotel, I followed the road up as far as the footpath to the left.
Although this was a climb, it was fairly gradual with plenty of views and things of interest, such as the Russian Chapel. I arrived there at 10:30, before the tourists descended so had a good look round.

Vrisc pass, Slovenia. Face in rock

My route took my past the ‘face in the cliffs’. Needless to say, there is a story behind this.

On reaching the part of Vrisc where the tourist coaches stop and their passengers get a photo, I continued past the dom (a large mountain hut serving food) to a much quieter peak where there was still some snow on the ground. I passed through the white stuff towards a little grey box containing a book to record my visit (for safety) and a rubber stamp. It would have been nice to mark on my map that I’d arrived but, sadly, the ink had dried up.
It was a beautifully warm and sunny day. This was a great spot to sit a while and take in the views.

View from Vrisc pass, Slovenia

The route back was similar to the route up albeit slightly quicker. The total distance being around 12.5 miles. A GPX file can be downloaded from the OutdoorActive website.    

Italian lakes near Slovenian border

Friday 7th June and I’m the only person at breakfast. I was offered eggs cooked any way I wished to go with my coffee and cereal. 
It was another hot and sunny day. The plan was to take the path/cycle route D2 to the  Fusine lakes across the border in Italy. This was a walk I’ve done a few times but it really is beautiful and well worth a return visit.
I did a figure of eight loop stopping at a quiet spot for a quick drink and to take in the views.
I continued along D2 the far end of the village Fusine in Valromana but there was little reward in extending the walk. I’ve removed this extra part from the GPX file.

Saturday was looking to be another hot sunny day. The car park around the lake Jasna was already busy when left my room at 9am. 
My original plan was to get bus to Mojstrana but I decided to walk. This was perhaps not best idea! It was 26 degrees in relentless sun. On a previous visit, I got as far as the foot of Triglav,  today, I only reached the gallery rock formations.  Still, it was a nice if surprisingly tiring walk.
I returned to Mojstrana for the hourly bus back to Kranjska Gora. I felt quite smug. After a quick look on Alpetour website, I’d got to the stop a few minutes before the bus and had the correct change….I hadn’t spotted that the 16:12 bus didn’t run on Saturday. Could have been worse, the bus stop was closed on some days due to road works.  

 Sunday 9th June
After being the only person at breakfast on the previous mornings, today there was another English lady travelling alone and an Austrian family.
Later in the morning I popped in to the shopping area for some cash. Two cash machines were out of money. I assumed there had been a rush on Friday and Saturday. I had enough money for some drinks so headed to the supermarket. It was closed. Using my limited Slovenian, I’d worked out it should have opened at 8am. It was now 9.20
Giving up on that idea, I grabbed my stuff then went on walk to the Koca v Krnici hut. A nice simple walk following the river through woods. I took the track back making it fairly circular.
I’d returned to Kranjska Gora quite early in afternoon so took D2 to Gozd Martuljek, crossing the river for the walk back.
This walk can be easily split in to two separate shorter walks from Kranjska Gora.
I later discovered that today was Pentecost or Whit Sunday, a national holiday in Slovenia. Explains why everything was shut!

Monday 10th June
The plan today was to do the three borders walk but the dark clouds were gathering in that direction.
I started walking towards where the borders of Slovenia, Italy and Austria meet but took a left a Ratece towards the Planica centre.
Passing the visitor centre and ski jumps, I continued on to walk to the Nadiza waterfall.
I’d walked up the waterfall last year so today I followed one of the paths south just because it was there! I was glad I did! More snow to play in and some fantastic views.
This is a great, easy circular walk from Planica although I removed the extra bit to the south off my GPX file

Once I made my way back to Planica, I took the path beside the hotel and on to the Slanta ski lift. The path had the usual yellow signs pointing to Kranjska Gora and Ratece. Then I hit a sign saying ‘private’.
Was walking across here still possible?
There was nobody around so I carried on but no yellow footpath signs until I got over their land. According to my GPS I was still on the footpath. Had it been removed?
My route, legal or otherwise, came out near the bizarre labyrinth, from here it is an easy walk on D2 back. 

Tuesday 11th June 
Today I was going to try a new route, head towards the Martuljek waterfall. then take the path towards Spik and the bivouac
The further I went along the path, the more difficult the terrain. Not hugely difficult but rain was predicted, the clouds were getting darker and I was rapidly loosing confidence in my Scapra approach shoes.  It was enough for me to think to myself, “I’ve seen nobody since leaving D2 and the phone signal has disappearing. As much as I want to stay in Slovenia, I didn’t want to prolong my stay by being stuck up a mountain after a slip.”
There were a lot more contours on the map ahead and, looking at the map, there would not be much more in the way of views although seeing the bivouac would have been fun. 

I followed the path back down to a track which led me down to D2 opposite the memorial for cyclist Jure Robic.  From here, I followed D2 to Gozd Martuljek taking the road through the village and up past a waterfall.
Taking a left at Srednji Vrh, the route continues through pastures, woodland and past a house selling fresh yogurt.
There were some great views over to Kranjska Gora but the weather was turning so I cut the walk a shorter and headed back to the hotel the rain became very heavy.
The Pension Milka kitchen was closed today at the hotel so I headed to Kotnik’s for a takeaway pizza. I got the most expensive pizza on the menu (€10 plus 50c for box). Truffle; Mozzarella, sweet cream, truffle, deer prosciutto, Karst prosciutto, Parmesan. Fantastic!!
I made my way very quickly in the torrential rain to my balcony where I sat with my pizza and a Slovenian IPA beer watching the storms in the valleys.

A 5.30 pick up for the airport in the morning so an early night this evening. A total of 214.67km or 133.4 miles to add to the total this year.

Testing the Coleman Cobra 2 at Hulme End

I’ve  used a one person Coleman Kraz tent  in the past. A decent, cheap starter tent. I picked up another Coleman, the 2 man Cobra, for £70 on an Amazon Black Friday deal.

Before purchasing, I took some time to read reviews across a number of websites. It seemed a very good price for a decent tent.

Coleman tent in bag

It arrived in it’s   waterproof stuff sack.
At 48 x 18 x 15 cm, it’s small enough to fit easily into my rucksack. 
The pitching instructions are sewn in to the carry sack so no chance of them getting lost although, to be honest, it’s simple enough to pitch without much help.

Coleman Cobra tent instructions.

Whilst not the lightest tent  at  a little over 2kg, I was happy with it’s weight considering the price paid and the amount of room. 
Being  a  two person tent, it  gives a little extra space for one person. I certainly wouldn’t want to try and put two adults in it!

There is just the one door on the  left hand side, another reason not to put someone else in the tent, the person on the ‘wrong’ side would have a bit of a scramble to get out.

Being a wedged tunnel design, the  Cobra has two good size storage areas away from the inner tent.
I keep my 80l rucksack and all my kit on top of a drybag (to keep the kit off the grass) in the non-door side. Everything is out the way and remains perfectly dry.

My first attempt of pitching was done in the back garden. It was very simple.  Peg out out the back, push the colour coded poles through the corresponding coloured mesh sleeves, put the poles in to the flysheet eyelets, clip the poles to the flysheet, bring the tent forward, then finally finish pegging.
First pitching took under 10 minutes. I was happy with that!

I do like the mesh pole sleeves, much easier to use than the equivalent on my Vango
The inner and flysheet are attached so go up as one.  I much prefer this over inner first,  especially in bad weather.

Putting the Cobra away was simple. Simply put the poles and pegs in to their respective bags and roll the tent around them.
The stuff sack has a taco style wide opening, making getting the tent in very easy. The compression straps to shrink the size down.

Coleman Cobra 2 tent in Hulme End campsite

The tent’s first trip out  was to the Hulme End Campsite in the Peak District. A basic site with a couple of toilets and a  washing up sink. No showers or reception area, simply pay the owner £5 when he turns up in his 4×4 (at around 4pm when I was there).
It was the middle of  September. The kids were back in school and so there was plenty of space in the large field. I pitched on the right hand edge near the far end.
Once again, the tent went up easily.

After firing up the Jetboil for a quick coffee, I headed out for a walk around the local villages, passing through Warslow and Butterton. This route was mostly along roads but they were very quiet and it was a nice way to see the local area. A GPX file of the route is available on Viewranger.

Colman Cobra 2 tent at night

I had dinner at the Manifold Inn, located near the entrance of the campsite site. I managed to get the last table, it’s well worth booking if planning on eating here!
I started with a plate of hams, olives and a big slice of ciabatta bread.
Main course was pie, chips and veg. I certainly didn’t leave hungry!!

Stuffed to the gills, I went back to the tent. I attached my  phone to a power bank, placed it in one of the Cobra’s  mesh pockets and settled down for the night.
It was surprisingly dark in the tent and the site was lovely and peaceful.  I snugged down in my sleeping bag and a very good sleep soon followed.

Inside Coleman Cobra 2 tent at night

I woke to discover it had rained quite heavily over night but no problem for the Cobra with it’s 3000mm hydrostatic head flysheet and  5000mm groundsheet.  
The ventilated  mesh inner tent did a good job of keeping the mini beasts and condensation at bay.  One minor quibble is the headroom. I’m about 5 foot 11 (1.8m) and I wasn’t able to sit up properly but try find a 1 or 2 man tent with decent headroom! The Cobra is 77cm at his highest point.

Despite having my Jetboil and some porridge with me, breakfast was taken in the Manifold, I went slightly off piste and went for a large cafetiere of coffee and a black pudding toastie.

Back at camp, I wiped down the rain off the outside of the tent, removed the poles and pegs and lay it on the ground.  After putting the peg and pole bags in the middle of the flattened tent, I folded the sides in to the middle and rolled it all up. Everything went in to the stuff sack fairly neatly.

Everything got chucked in the back of the car and I drove to the Hulme End pay and display car park just around the corner. In retrospect, I think I could have left the car at the campsite. Oh well….
I’d planned a 6 mile circular walk from the car park (which is available as a GPX file).
The route started on the Manifold Way, a tarmac path and cycle route.
I left this path and followed the road south to the caves at Wetton.
After a quick comfort break, I crossed the river and walked north.
There were two options, follow the Manifold Trail back to the car park or take a right and follow the water at the base of Wetton hill. I chose the latter.
The last part of the walk was along quiet roads, leading back to the car park and The Tea Junction for a well deserved coffee!

View from Manifold Way

Camping, but not as we know it

As a kid, the family spent many nights under canvas until one morning we woke to find a large portion of the tent getting blown down the camping field. We chased it down  but the bright orange tent had to be dumped in to the nearest skip.
Rather than replace the tent, our UK trips were spent in static caravans.
In the evenings, Mum would prepare dinner, Dad would have the map out, planning the next hike and I would head out on adventures around the site with my brother. Climbing trees and wading through streams. Happy days!

It’s been many years since I’d last slept in a caravan but, for a a few days in August, I’d be spending a few days with the family in Lakeland Haven Leisure Park.
A few days before the trip I read the reviews on TripAdvisor. Oh dear, it didn’t look good! I didn’t build my hopes up.

The journey down there was interesting.
Being a family holiday which included three kids aged 5 and under, there was a lot of stuff to take. My little Abarth 124 wasn’t big enough so for the four days I drove Mum’s 2004 Renault Clio. That was a shock to the system, but on the bright side, I wasn’t going to be getting a speeding ticket!

20180817_160540On check in, it was nice to see Haven had listened to my brothers request for caravans close to each other. The kids loved running along the grass between the two.
Both caravans were spotlessly clean and surprisingly comfortable.
On the first night we stayed in the caravan and cooked  the food we’d brought with us. It was raining quite heavily so the night was spent curled up on the sofa watching Disney Dvds and playing cards.

After a decent night sleep, I rustled up some breakfast then the family went their separate ways.  While the others visited the miniature village down the road, I took the footpath just outside the Haven main entrance.20180818_121147
I walked along the coastal path to the West,  along the sheep filled marshes until I reached Cowpren Point. Here, the route headed North, eventually coming out on to a road at Sand Gate.  A track, just off the road to the left,  lead to the village of Cark where The Engine Inn provided a good refreshment stop!

Fully refreshed I headed West out of the village towards Cassen Wood.
I passed a “residents only” sign but decided that I was a resident for a few days so continued until I hit another sign stating “No access to Holker Park“. My OS map showed paths and the gate was  unlocked so I continued to the next gate, beyond which several dear were grazing.
After Googling the hall I discovered entry to the park and gardens was £8.50, which explains this second gate had been padlocked!
I wandered back the same way to Cark and took the B5278, Station Road, out of town and towards the entrance Holker Hall. I found a footpath to the right, just after the Hall gates.
My walk became a circular loop as I took the next path on the right back to Cark.
From the village it was  a straight route South, through the village of Flookburgh to the caravan.
Not quite the route I was planning but a decent 8 mile walk. The route without the dead-end is available to download as GPX.
20180818_143838

We headed back out up the road to Flookburgh in the evening. There is just the one road in/out of the holiday park and at the Flookburgh end is the Hope and Anchor, a large Robinsons pub serving food.
If you don’t want burger, the choice is limited to what  is on the special’s board.  Luckily I did fancy a burger, more precisely a Black and Blue Burger, a beef burger topped with blue cheese and black pudding. The black pud was slightly mushy  but not bad at all!

I woke to light rain the next morning.
The kids were spending the some time in the pool so I headed out for another walk, this time I would be heading East towards Grange over Sands.
I took the road out from the camp, taking a right down the road opposite the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding shop. Apart from crossing a field to cut a corner near Allithwaite, the route mostly followed quiet country roads until I reached the coastal path in to Grange over Sands.
The rain was off and on. It started again just at the time I purchased a coffee from a small stall and sat drinking outside.  To the left of me sat a family consuming pop, coffee and chocolate bars, to the right a young couple who were making their way through to large plates of beans on toast. In true English style, we all sat in the drizzle watching the world go by as if we were on a sunny terrace in Sicily.

To be honest, Grange-over-Sands isn’t hugely exciting on a damp August afternoon.  I did a quick loop at the end of town through some woods and past a garden I can see no mention of online!  After a stop at The Commodore Inn, I took a road to the North of the town back towards Allithwaite. From there, I retraced my steps back to the caravan park. I didn’t realise at the time, but I’d soon be back at this village.

The rest of the family were eating at the onsite bar/restaurant. I’d read bad reviews and wasn’t over keen on taking a meal there, also, I was back from my walk quite late on in the afternoon, they were already eating when I arrived to pick up the key.
Their meals ranged from ‘Okay’ to inedible, it seemed I’d made the right decision to eat elsewhere.
After a clean up and change of clothes, I once again, headed up the road to Cark to the furthest pub, the Rose and Crown, it was packed.
A few minutes down the road, I popped my head in to the Engine Inn, they’d stopped serving walk ins. Seems a bit daft only serving people who had pre-booked given how many free tables there were.
Back down to the Hope and Anchor, they stopped serving at 6, although the choice would have been either Sunday roast or another burger.
A quick look on Google revealed the Pheasant Inn in Allithwaite served food until 9, and I’m so glad I went there!
Sitting in the adult only conservator, my starter came in a brown bag, I unwrapped it to reveal a lovely black pudding.
Main was a very nice slab of pork belly with crackling.
8.2 mile round trip for food, I felt I’d earned this, especially after the 12 miles earlier in the day!
Happily fed and watered, I put on my head torch and wandered down the country lanes with bats zipping round me.

Back in the caravan, the others had settled down for the evening. I too climbed in to bed and got comfy under my duvet.
Not my usual camping but no complaints!

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