Wales and Shropshire, Cowlton to Bridges walk

I do love it when a plan comes together! We were spending a few days in Wales, in the simply glorious countryside near Wales-Shropshire border and I was desperate for a good long walk. I had some ideas of where we could walk, Beloved was a bit unsure for a couple of reasons – firstly, we were staying with his family so had to consider all ages, fitness and interest; secondly, the weather forecast said rain, rain, then more rain and thirdly, while visiting last year, we discovered that some paths had all but disappeared and Beloved wasn’t all that keen on freestyling through bracken, mud or bog. Then on Tuesday morning, no rain. An idea for a walk came into my head that I knew would appeal to everyone – it hadn’t been attempted before, it ended at a great pub we all know and it had plenty of pick up points en route for anyone who got too tired. It started with a walk up Cowlton hill but here we compromised a little by driving to near the top so that the kids wouldn’t get too tired too soon. We then walked for just over 8 miles past Lan Fawr and Corndon Hill (which looked a pretty steep climb), crossed the A488, then up Oldgrit and past Grit Hill to The Bog where we had a break and a slice of cake in the tea room, then up Stiperstones and down to Bridges and a well-deserved pint of Three Tuns’ Cleric’s Cure.

Wales view from Cowlton

View from Cowlton into Vale of Montgomery. Beloved and I climbed up Cowlton through bracken last year so we didn’t mind being given a lift part of the way up this time.

Wales view from Cowlton past Lann Fawr

View just past Lan Fawr, Beloved and I freestyled our way back down through the bracken on the left side last year looking for the path. Our path this year was along the lane.

Wales looking back at Corndon

After a while, we crossed the A488 and climbed past old disused mine shafts across Oldgrit, this photo is looking back at Corndon Hill and the way we came from.

Wales Oldgrit looking back

And, looking back at Oldgrit, sheep grazing and one of the disused mine shafts.

Wales Shelve Pool

Shelve Pool. We’d seen it on the map but it is hidden in woodland and fenced off. We found a way in through the fence and were rewarded with a lovely, peaceful scene. Quite marshy though so we weren’t able to stop for a picnic and continued on towards Stiperstones.

Wales bridges walk first view of Stiperstones

First glimpse of Stiperstones, the nine year old was a little worried about the distance but determined to continue. The weather was cool and cloudy, good for walking and as we neared The Bog, it started warming up. Our path was on a mild incline and by the time we reached the tea rooms we were in need of a break. Refreshed by a slice of cake and now joined by Beloved’s brother and mother, everyone was offered a lift up towards Stiperstones and then onto Bridges and everyone refused. We didn’t climb all the way up to Stiperstones, which would have been lovely but we’d walked up before and the afternoon was getting on. Beloved’s mother joined us at Stiperstones car park for the last three miles and a walk down the road to Bridges – we stayed on the road as it offered the best views and the most direct route.

Wales view from Stiperstones

Glorious views near Stiperstones car park.

Wales Bridges walk sheep and view

Wales Bridges walk sheep and view 2

Sheep and views, hardly any traffic and no other walkers. We’d seen a few people and cars at The Bog and Stiperstones car parks but once we headed towards Bridges, the road was pretty deserted.

Wales Stiperstones to Bridges view

The road we walked on can be seen just at top left of the photo. It is a fabulous drive and an even better walk.

Wales Stiperstones to Bridges rolling hills

And last photo of rolling hills. Fantastic day and the kids were pretty pleased with themselves for completing the walk.

North Yorkshire Moors, Sleights Moor + Newtondale to Levisham

heather on sleights moor

 

This is exactly what I wanted to see walking in Yorkshire, heather on the moors. This photo was taken yesterday late morning on Sleights Moor, which we reached via a short uphill walk from Grosmont, just over a mile of steep gradients. Perfect morning constitutional. We set off early yesterday and got the first North Yorkshire Moors Railway train from Pickering to Grosmont – unfortunately the first train wasn’t steam but diesel locomotive, Beloved thought this was because shovelling coal is too much hard work on Sunday morning. It rained but the rain had stopped by the time we reached Grosmont and by the time we were walking on the moor, the sun had come out. You could see over to Sleights village down below and Whitby, a little further on.

view to whitby sleights moor

We also saw lots and lots of grouse, Beloved, walking ahead of me had startled a few and they emit a sort of quacking sound like very annoyed ducks or geese. Very funny. This whole time, we were completely alone on the moor. On our way back, we saw a couple of people walking up following the road and then a couple more, walking on the road again. We had these glorious views all to ourselves.

view from sleights moor

 

Back in Grosmont, there was a steam train about to leave but they kindly let us on so we didn’t have time to wander about. We got off again at Newtondale Halt, which is a request stop – really a platform with a little cabin in the middle of the forest. One notice warning you about lack of signposting and another about adders. Ha. I picked up a stick, which actually came in pretty useful later when I managed to sprain my ankle yet again. Thankfully no adders.

The walk was meant to have taken us over the Hole of Horcum but the path was not very well signposted so we ended up walking along a ridge with the Hole a little way away to our left. It wasn’t very far and only a short climb but no clear paths to it, just a lot of bracken and heather. We already had great views from where we were so decided to stay on the same path and forget the Hole.

newtondale halt view towards levisham

Great views on all sides, the moors railway running along. While sitting on the train, you don’t really get much of an idea of the scale – you mainly see forest on either side. The path is just so much more interesting. Yet not many people seem to be enjoying this. We saw only one family coming from Levisham as we were climbing up shortly after leaving Newtondale Halt and then no one else until we were  almost at the end of the walk. We then saw a few little groups – people probably just driving up to Levisham and coming out for a little stroll after lunch.

newtondale halt towards levisham looking back

 

View back, we’d walked all along the edge on the right. We found a path down, crossed the railway tracks and then walked to Levisham station, reaching it with just a few minutes to spare before train back to Pickering. In all, we walked just over 9 miles. A decent walk overall with two little climbs and stunning views.

Interestingly, the trains we took were pretty busy. The stations full of people lined up to see trains arrive and depart. Photo below is taken at Goathland station, with people taking photos lining the platform and the little bridge. The paths, in contrast, were pretty deserted. I don’t know whether we’re here at a particularly weird time of the year but it was a very sunny weekend so you could imagine people wanting to go out and about – probably only to sit down again though.

Goathland platform with people

 

 

Helmsley and Rievaulx

rievaulx church view NWWhen I thought about coming to Yorkshire for a walking weekend, one of the main criteria for choosing a base to stay in was to have an abbey within easy reach. Hence Pickering, from here, Helmsley is half an hour bus ride and Rievaulx Abbey a 3 mile walk. It was a hot day so we walked fairly slowly from Helmsley to Rievaulx. The path follows the Cleveland Way with some fabulous views.cleveland way to rievaulxThe Abbey, dating from the 12th century was a home to Cistercian monks, it was dissolved, like all the others by Henry VIII and a little museum on the site tells you what the Tudors used the dismantled lead from the roof or stained glass window pieces for after the dissolution. What is amazing is how much of the abbey still remains today – Rievaulx is one of the most complete ruins in Yorkshire. There is certainly a lot more of the church remaining than at Whitby. We were blessed with good weather although the forecast did mention possible thunderstorms and I did wander how atmospheric the whole place would have been with thunderstorms.rievaulx church columnsI took loads of photographs, even took a tripod with me, just in case and also to weigh the rucksack down, as if it weighed nothing in the first place. Did I take the tripod out, no. Still, we spent a good couple of hours walking slowly around, taking photos and admiring the soaring arches. I do love a soaring arch.rievaulx more church columnsThere were a few people about but it wasn’t very busy, what I liked about it most is that people seem to choose Rievaulx Abbey as a good picnic spot, it is quiet, contemplative but also quite powerful in its own way.rievaulx flowers growing in the kitchen I also liked how nature is claiming this place back slowly but surely. Birds were nesting everywhere, flowers and grass growing in the most unlikely spots like the above, which I believe was the part of the old kitchen and infirmary.

Walk from Helmsley to Rievaulx is 3 miles and as we walked slowly to, we thought it would take ages to get back. It took no time at all. We pretty much marched it back to Helmsley, heat or no. The walk back actually felt like a good exercise. This is the last you see of the abbey (I took the photo on our way in though), it is a pretty stunning sight through gaps in the hedge.rievaulx first sightingOnce in Helmsley, we realised that we wouldn’t really have enough time to see the castle properly – another English Heritage property and another ruin. Beloved said we’d had enough ruins for one day and he was right, so we sat in a pub on the main square looking out at the world passing by. Could have done that for hours. Beloved also spotted a good deli so we stocked up on honey, chutney and local cheese. We only did 6 miles in the end so not a long walk at all by our standards but very enjoyable.

North York Moors, Pickering

We’ve come to Yorkshire for a walk this weekend. Didn’t expect it to be quite so hot. Don’t think we’ve ever had hot weather before while away for a walking weekend so this is a whole new thing for us. We got to Pickering yesterday afternoon and only had a walk about the little town. It felt too hot to do a longer walk, especially after train, train and a very late bus it took to get here. Think we needed acclimatising. yorkshire pickering castle 1Pickering castle, which is clearly a ruin. We walked around but didn’t go in. It’s managed by English Heritage so they obviously charge an entry fee and I am not sure that there’s enough to see once inside to merit it. So we had a lovely little walk around it instead.yorkshire tree by pickering castleAnd spotted this tree with huge mushrooms growing from it. We also went to look at Pickering Station, which has a steam train service to Whitby. The station was very cute but I didn’t take any photographs. We later got lucky with a steam train which passed us at the crossing nearby.yorkshire steam trainI’ve planned a walk tomorrow for which we take the steam train up towards Whitby, then get off and walk back. Can’t wait. Today we’re off to see ruins of an abbey, which should be fun.

Lee Valley, Cheshunt to Broxbourne, Broxbourne Woods

yellow meadow

We haven’t been able to get out for a long walk in weeks. I’ve spent the past few weekends writing a tricky essay for a course, finally finished it last week and now I’m on a break until the autumn. The weather was just perfect yesterday and we thought about going to the coast but decided, in the end, against a longer train journey and walked closer to home. Over the past couple of years we’ve been walking the Lee River path on and off and we’ve done most of it below Waltham Abbey and the M25. Yesterday, we decided to take a train to Cheshunt, walk up the river path towards Broxbourne, then leave the river and walk in Broxbourne Woods, a nature reserve. We did 10 miles in total. The first half of the river path was quiet, it got busier as we got closer to Broxbourne, the woodland, later on, was pretty deserted and so were the meadows we crossed on our way back to Broxbourne and train home.

lee river cheshunt

lee river private fishery sign

This sign was about 1/2 way between Cheshunt and Broxbourne. The first stage of Lee Valley walk, between Cheshunt Lock and Turnford Marsh had little paths going off, good for exploring and probably good for fishing, I don’t know, I just took lots of nature photos and spent a lot of time following butterflies.

blue flowers cozens grove

 

blue flower

 

I’m getting better at taking close up photos of flowers and plants but never know what I’m taking photos of. Must be an app somewhere for this sort of thing, shall do some research.

Hoddesonpark wood

hoddesdon

Scenery change, Hoddesdonpark Wood above and the meadow is just marked ‘Hoddesdon’ on the OS map. Part of the walk was along Hertfordshire Way, think I’ll look up where it comes from and where it goes as it’s very easy for us to get up to this part of the world. It’s worth coming back to for the lovely scenery.

South Downs, Devil’s Dyke

We haven’t done a long walk in a whole month and the weather oracle that is the BBC said it would be sunny today so off we went. Several trains later, we got to Fishersgate and made our way across South Downs to Devil’s Dyke. The weather was perfect, the expanse of the blue sky and the rolling hills just so life affirming. It was good to be out.

the hills are alive south downs1

 

the hills are alive south downs

 

Fields and hills on one side, hills, fields and the sea on the other. We stopped at the Devil’s Dyke pub for a couple of pints and a late lunch then made our way back to Portslade and trains back – walked just over 10 miles in total and the last 4 miles in an hour, just managing to catch the Brighton train. All together just glorious but legs a bit stiff now… Oh well, glad we finally have some fabulous spring weather.

devil's dyke coming up

 

view from devil's dyke

 

devil's dyke

New Forest, Brockenhurst to White Moor

Yesterday’s walk turned out to be nearly 14 miles and that is way past Beloved’s threshold of acceptable walk length. We were walking in a different part of the forest to Sunday, heading towards Limewood in a roundabout sort of way, for late lunch. The weather didn’t look too promising but ended up being fairly dry with just an odd little shower and quite a sunny late afternoon again. The really marvellous thing about yesterday was being able to pause to take photos without the fear of camera getting wet. The beginning of the walk, at Balmerlawn looked pretty good with all sorts of colours and good reflections caused by so much rain.

new forest balmer lawn

 

We weren’t in a rush and once it became evident (or rather hopeful, really) that there weren’t going to be downpours like on Sunday, we’d go off the bridleway and into the woods taking lots of photos of things like moss. I get rather excited by moss, it’s the lovely greens and the sponginess of it.

new forest moss

 

And, later on funny trees and streams. It’s rather lovely when there is no one about and you pretty much have this whole massive forest to yourself. We did see a few people pass by here and there but probably less than 10 in total.

new forest stream

 

We’d walked about five or so miles to this point and as we had plenty of time before lunch, we walked up towards White Moor. I was pretty ignorant of the fact that there is quite a bit of moorland around here, I just expected forest really. So all this moorland has come as a great and pleasant surprise as I love a rugged landscape. We are not here at the best time of the year for heather but its purple tones can be seen just in the background of the photo.

new forest white moor

 

Walking through all this heather was also pretty good for cleaning our muddy boots but in the end that was a bit pointless. At this moment we were really pretty close to Limewood where we were having lunch but of course, I didn’t want to arrive there by road, thought it would have been nicer going through the forest. Only Limewood doesn’t seem to be frequented by people who walk so the only path leading to it (considering that it is situated right in the middle of forest) from the forest goes to the back of kitchens/ spa. We found it after much head scratching. And yes, the food was good but something was lacking from this experience. The porter had no idea about gates and exits from the grounds and one of the waitresses was pretty speechless when we said we’d walk back to Brockenhurst too. That walk back took no time, we marched it as I was afraid that we’d be stuck in the forest in the dark. Also, weirdly, OS map seems to be out of date slightly or maybe it’s just that we’re here out of season and some paths have overgrown but there was much further head scratching by me when we suddenly came out on Standing Hat, by Balmerlawn and I had us way, way back in the forest. Walk back was pretty good, late afternoon sun beautifully colouring the forest, had I known how close we were to Brockenhurst, would have stopped for more photos but never mind. Finishing with a photo of burnt bracken (it is not bracken but not sure what it was) up on the moor. Good contrast to forest which was teeming with life even at such ‘out of season’ time of year.

new forest burnt bits on white moor