Exploring Slieve Gullion and its interesting geology

Ascending Slieve Gullion with a view southwest to the outlying hills which form the ring of volcanic hills surrounding Slieve Gullion. The village in the gap between the two hills is Forkhill and beyond is County Louth.

So here was my plan. Leave Macclesfield at 5am, get a lift to Manchester Airport for the first flight out to Belfast City Airport. Collect my hire car and get provisions for a few days then head down to County Armagh to climb the hill called Slieve Gullion and be walking by 10am. It seemed an ambitious plan and having negotiated the Belfast rush hour I was parked up and ready for the off at 09.45am from the Slieve Gullion Interpretation Centre in South Armagh and furthermore it’s was a fine and sunny October morning.

On my first visit to the area in 2003, the observation watch towers were still in place along the border. Ten years later, the towers had gone but being close to the Irish border and not knowing what to expect, I was a bit dubious about walking here due to its past terrorist history as just down the road were the two villages of Forkhill and Crossmaglen both of which often featured in the news for all the wrong reasons. I needn’t have worried as the site was well used by walkers and the place where I set out from had a complex of buildings including a café, toilets and detailed information boards of the area explaining the rich geological history.
Geologically Slieve Gullion and the encircling ‘ring dyke’ hills are considered to be the best example of a volcanic ring dyke system in the British Isles The complex attracts international research interest and has made contributions of world significance to scientific understanding of volcanicity.
The oldest rocks date from the Silurian period 440 million years ago and were laid down under the sea bed then 30 million years later, molten granite rock was intruded into these rocks which spread as far as Newry as few miles away. This volcanic activity formed an important part of mountain building in Ireland
Around 65 million years ago during the Palaeogene period, the area saw further volcanic activity and Slieve Gullion today forms the heart of an ancient volcano. Ring faults around Slieve Gullion form an interesting circle of hills some seven miles in diameter.
So why had I come to climb, Slieve Gullion? Well, it just so happens to be the highest piece of land in County Armagh and therefore a county top. I had only two ‘county tops’ summits to bag in Northern Ireland and with the weather being good I set out on this recognised nine mile circuit.

The trig point and toposcope at the summit of Slieve Gullion and the view south towards County Louth.

The passage tomb at the summit of Slieve Gullion. Probably a good lunch stop out of the wind! I decided not to put it to the test.

With a fine sunny morning I set off up through Hawthorn Wood from the Interpretation Centre but already the map and information I had didn’t agree as I should have been higher up the hillside. I continued with a good path and knew exactly where I was. Soon the views to the south began to open out towards Dundalk and County Louth. With a little bit of a dog leg on a unmarked path, I managed with ease to get onto the intended route, which was a deserted forest drive albeit a few dog walkers. The drive skirted around the lower southern slopes of Slieve Gullion gradually ascending and views opening out across the vast expanse of green fields towards County Monaghan. As I ascended so the circuit of rocky hills around Slieve Gullion were becoming more prominent and the geological landscape was giving up its secrets.

Reaching a high point on the forest drive I stopped for my morning break and soon left the drive up an engineered path on my right. This good path ran all the way to the 576 metre summit. The summit was a cold place and no spot to linger. The sunshine of earlier had gone and fleeting showers were around. The view however was excellent with the visibility extending to Sugarloaf Mountain south of Dublin some sixty miles away. Below the trig point and toposcope is a large chambered passage tomb, the highest of any such tomb in Ulster. The entrance to the tomb is along a short, lintelled, passage which leads to the octagonal, originally corbelled, chamber.The earliest documented investigation of the tomb dates from 1789 when only a few bones were found and another archelogical imnvestigateion in 1961 revealed that the tomb had probably been ransacked and little was found.

A pleasant grassy path descending north from Slieve Gullion and a view to the ring of volcanic hills that surround Slieve Gullion.

Sunlight catches Sugarloaf Hill, north of Slieve Gullion.

I decided to set off for North Cairn which lies at the northern end of the ridge. In contrast with the walk so far the going was quite boggy in parts and a slip I took resulted in an awkward fall onto my thumb. Thankfully, I didn’t break it but it was a close thing. From North Cairn I descended north towards the Ballard Road carefully treading on any sloping boggy ground. Lower down at a drier spot, I found a good sheltered spot for my picnic lunch staring out across County Armagh and County Down. Setting off once more, the path became very good and well defined as I descended that last half mile to the Ballard Road. It was all road walking now back to the car and turning east, I soon made a winding descent to continue with the road running south below Slieve Gullion. There was the odd shower around but not enough for waterproofs.

Tree felling on the slopes of Slieve Gullion. Its amazing what this bit of kit can do. Grabbing each tree, felling, stripping the branches and cutting into lengths takes as little as forty seconds.

Clonlum South Cairn near Meigh. One of many prehistoric monuments in this area.

 

I paused at three locations en route back to the car. Firstly I stopped below Ballintemple Wood and watched a machine at work felling pine trees. Easy work was being made as each tree was grabbed by claws and the powerful saw cut through tree trunk then felled and the trunk stripped of branches and cut into equal lengths with each tree only taking around forty seconds to process. Next on the agenda was Killevy Old Churches which date from the 5th century AD and started out as a convent. Two churches were built next to one another in a peaceful setting and surrounded by a graveyard. Today the buildings are roofless. Finally, a short detour was taken into a field to visit Clonlum South Cairn. A Cist, surrounded by a raised bank lying in the middle of a field. I continued with the road back to the car finishing the walk by mid afternoon.
So to sum up the walk is that I was pleasantly surprised by the good facilities at the start and overall the paths were good in this area where few walkers would have dared to tread only a few years back. There are plans for a network of paths in the area. It is now a case of attracting people into this area of interesting scenery.

Walking in the Cheshire Panhandle

Higher Swineshaw Reservoir. I was lucky to reach this spot during a brief glimpse of winter sunshine which set off nicely the surrounding area.

Look at an old map of the County of Cheshire and there is a tract of land that juts out in the top right hand corner which looks almost like a handle. If the rest of Cheshire forms the ‘pan’ then this bit of the county resembles a ‘handle’ so hence the phrase.

My walk is starting in Stalybridge, and on first impression this is just another typical town in the Greater Manchester conurbation, but dig a little deeper and several interest features come to light. Man first settled in the area during Neolithic times and two cairn sites have been identified on nearby Hollingworthhall Moor as Stalybridge Cairn and Hobson Cairn both of which I will be visiting on this walk.

The town really came to prominence during the Industrial Revolution and was a forerunner of the cotton industry with many mills springing up, but the town suffered too during the cotton famine. An unusual claim to fame is that the town has pubs with the longest and shortest names in the country. The ‘Q’ Inn is located close to the railway station, whilst the ‘The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn’ is located in Astley Street but is now unfortunately closed. Outside the Old Victoria Market Hall is a modern bronze statue to Jack Judge who over a five shilling bet wrote one of the most famous songs associated with the First World War. ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’. The words to the songs were written in the long gone Newmarket Tavern in Corporation Street during one evening in 1912 after he was challenged to write, compose, and produce a song in just one night.

Having found ample parking in a side street in the town I am setting off along the towpath of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal running northeast from the town. The canal runs twenty miles and connects Ashton under Lyne with Huddersfield. The canal construction was quite a feat of engineering and took many years to build with many setbacks. Over its twenty mile length there are seventy four locks and the canal passes through the Standedge Tunnel which at 5,700 yards is the longest canal tunnel in Britain.

Walkerwood Reservoir. The lowest of a chain of reservoirs in this area.

Hollingworthall Moor. This views looks towards Lower and Upper Swineshaw Reservoirs. On the 24th February we will hopefully get this view on the walk and will be following the ridge on the right of the photograph to the far reservoir. The path along the ridge seen on the right in the foreground should hopefully be good underfoot.

Leaving Stalybridge on a dull winter’s morning it certainly isn’t the most exciting of places to walk with an embankment on one side and industrial units on the other. I leave the canal towpath at Grove Road and head into Millbrook where I cross the B6175. A path is soon joined into what is called Stalybridge Country Park but this area is full of thickets crisscrossed with paths. It isn’t far before I join Brushes Lane, a lane cum track running along the southern edge of the country park. I had hoped to walk to the southern side of Walkerwood Reservoir but the path isn’t clear and instead I end up walking via the road across the dam. The so called lane on the far side is more of a track and an icy one at that. I ascend on this track passing the smaller Brushes Reservoir and then Lower Swineshaw Reservoir. By now, the brighter skies of earlier have clouded over and it looks almost as if it might rain. After a steady ascent, I reach Upper Swineshaw Reservoir and time it just nicely as a brief sunny interval sets off the landscape against a dark sky. It feels quite cold up here so I don’t linger, but press on across the dam and continue with the stony track on the far side.
I am now aiming for Wild Bank Hill and soon turn right on a rough path. I have to look out for another path on my right which will take me up onto Hollingworthhall Moor. In the event, it turns out, that this seems to be the most defined path anyway. In the meantime, some showery rain brushes the area but thankfully it doesn’t last long. For now, the going underfoot is reasonably good but the approach to Wild Bank Hill is muddier. The top affords fine views over Manchester and beyond and I can even pick out the Wrekin in Shropshire, some sixty miles away. This is the site of one of the two pre-historic cairns mentioned earlier with the other one lying a short distance to the east. The trig point isn’t the place to hang about today and I soon set off south over Shaw Moor and later take a rather squelchy path down to Roe Cross. I cross the A6018 here and take a good path along the eastern flank of Harrop Edge and later stop at a sheltered spot for lunch with a view down to the slow traffic on the A57.

Wild Bank Hill. the trig point stands on a pre-historic cairn. The location is noted for its far reaching views from the 399 metre summit.

With the going underfoot good so far, things are about to change to the near on impassable. I want to get to the hamlet of Matley which involves crossing several fields. The first field is squelchy and slippery but this is nothing compared to the second field which had been churned up by cattle and is near on impassable to cross. I inched my way through a very wet area expecting to get a boot full of icy water at every step but escape unscathed to almost the edge of the field where the way ahead to the stile is just simply too wet to proceed. I divert a bit up the field to find a spot where I can cross the barb wire fence. The next field is better but very squelchy and slippery. I walk through Matley and turn left onto a lane before taking another squelchy and slippery path, and again I have to walk carefully to avoid any slips. The path continues across a golf course which I think is possibly closed due to the greens being churned up by countless golf buggies. Eventually I guess my way around and up to a very wet track.

Hough Hill. Another hill top  overlooking Stalybridge but we will not be visiting this 244 metre top on the walk on the 24th February.

I have time to visit the trig point on Hough Hill but I am unsuccessful in finding the path shown on the map. In the end I decide to cross a fence and head up over pastureland and around gorse bushes. It means crossing a wall further up and here I veered around to the right to get my bearings and head to the summit. Again the ground is muddy and slippery as I make it to the trig point which thankfully stands outside a reservoir compound. For the return I find the path which zigzags down through woodland and would have been easily to miss from the bottom. The woodland track towards Stalybridge is full of leaves and mud and I have to keep along the edge to avoid the worse of it. I later enter the top edge of Eastwood Nature Reserve, which apparently was one of the RSPB’s first nature reserves, and as I near Stalybridge so the conditions vastly improve into parkland. I have a little road walking at the end of my walk which takes me back to the car.

I am leading this walk in reverse on Saturday the 24th February. There are several variations to the walk described here and we will not be going via Hough Hill and I will vary the route after Matley to avoid a very muddy and squelchy area. The hill section of the walk is reasonably good underfoot and from Wild Bank Hill we hopefully will get some very good views. So join me and come along to discover some history of Stalybridge and its environs.

Along the Dove Dale rim

Walking the Dove Dale rim on a fine October day. This view looks down Sharplow Dale.

To date I have visited most of the trig points in the Peak District but there is just a handful left, and most of these don’t lie on any path and hence it will usually mean a trespass of sorts. For this walk I wanted to make a detour to a trig point that is well off a path and secondly I want to look at a possible path that was shown as a dotted line only on the 1;25,000 map which runs partly through open access land skirting the eastern rim above Dovedale but possibly not all the way but it was time to find out.

It’s October and the morning is dawning bright, cool and sunny. It’s therefore a good day for a walk and I travel down to park in the deserted car park in the village of Alstonefield, a location frequented often by the East Cheshire Ramblers. I’m setting off through the village and the autumn colours are probably at their best. First of all I want to visit the churchyard of the St Peter’s Church to get some photographs. The churchyard has some fine Saxon crosses and several more cross fragments are to be found within the church suggesting that the site was a ‘school of carving’.

St Peter’s Church in Alstonefield. There are some fine Saxon crosses in the churchyard.

Leaving the churchyard I’m heading east on a field path passing through fields of grazing cows before dropping down to the deep valley of the River Dove. The valley is still in shade and crossing from Staffordshire into Derbyshire I take a National Trust path parallel with the road. Taking a right turn, it is a short steep ascent to easier ground to cross several grassy fields. At the top it is merely a case of crossing several more fields to Bostern Grange Farm and most of these fields are full of grazing cattle. At Bostern Grange Farm, several farm hands are in the yard with a number of newly born calves. I press on, as I now have thoughts on getting to Reynards Trig Point. This trig point, which is at 369 metres lies well off any path and I want to be out of sight of any farm to get there. From other visitors to this trig point, it seems that the best approach was from the east. Further south, I veer away from the path across a pasture field towards a gate which I cross then scale another gate nearby. My only route now appears to be over a low wall which proves fairly easy to cross and I keep my eye on a field of cattle which thankfully carry on grazing. I soon reach an interesting archaeological site which is known as Cromwell’s Bowl Barrow where an excavation in 1848 revealed many finds including a rock cut grave covered with limestone slabs. By now I can see the trig point ahead of me which simply means crossing a pasture field. The high dry stone wall and associated bard wire fence presents more of a problem as the trig point on the other side. Why is it that trig points always are located on the opposite side of a wall? Leaving my rucksack and pole I carefully scale both and armed with my camera I am able to get some close up photographs. The views are quite good but it is a cold spot. Re-untied with my rucksack and pole I am keen to get back on the right of way, so retrace my steps to the path. Satisfied, I now head south but soon stop for my morning break at an old lime kiln but there is really nowhere suitable to get out of the cold wind.

The trig point at Reynard’s is a good viewpoint but unfortunately doesn’t lie on a right of way.

A interesting round limekiln above Thorpe Pasture.

I now continue on a good path south noting several ruins of lime kilns to my right, and later I join a gated lane before taking a path towards Thorpe after passing the isolated Pike House. I skirt around to Lin Dale where the cold wind is funnelling up the valley so this is not a place to stop for lunch. The stepping stones in Dove Dale are surprisingly busy and a large school party is there, possibly on a field trip.

The path along the eastern rim of Dove Dale gives a different prospect of this popular area. Its a part of Dove Dale you’ll likely have to yourself.

I start out on the path through popular Dove Dale, and at Lover’s Leap take the good path on the right which is only shown as a dotted line on my map. From the calm conditions in Dove Dale, the wind is getting up again and I want somewhere sheltered to stop for lunch. At the top of the ascent I climb a stile and settle down behind a wall for my break but it isn’t the best spot as the gusty wind soon makes it feel chilly. At least there is a good view over Dove Dale and I have the place to myself. A way-marker here points towards Tissington and hence this seems to be a new path running east which is not marked on my map.

I now set off north along what is shown as a dotted path, and on the ground there is a path. I soon came to a stile, and I am pleased to find a way-marker with the words ‘National Trust Concessionary Path’. Confident, I press on and the route is giving a new prospect of Dove Dale from a different angle. The path contours along the eastern rim and soon skirts around the upper end of Sharplow Dale and later on, descends then ascends across a dry valley. Later the path is wooded as it begins its descent into Dove Dale to reach the valley floor at the large caves at Dove Holes. I explore the entrances but they don’t go back that far. These caves were carved out by melt waters in the last ice age and since then were used by Neolithic man as a burial site.

The rock spires at Pickering Tors as seen from the footbridge below Ilam Rock.

I set off down Dove Dale to the bridge over the river at the impressive Ilam Rock. On the eastern side of the valley here is the equally impressive Pickering Tor with several rock spires. I am now in the shade as I make my way up to Hall Dale. Hale Dale is also in the shade as I ascend towards the small village of Stanshope. In the afternoon sunshine I head north on a good track then path with a steep descent then ascent across Dale Bottom. Here, there is a cottage with a lovely garden full of flowers including many varieties of dahlias. An afternoon ascent takes me via a field path to Alstonefield and the end of a lovely walk.

Nearing the end of a sunny day and the sign points to Alstonefield and the end of my walk.

I will be leading this walk for the group on the 20th February but in the opposite direction as described here. The walk will NOT visit the trig point at Reynard’s or Cromwell’s Bowl Barrow  as both these locations are not on a right of way but do come along to see Dove Dale from a new angle. Details on the ‘Notice Board’.

Destination Barr Beacon

The war memorial on Barr Beacon on a fine winter’s day.

The West Midlands probably doesn’t rate highly as an area to walk, but late last year as I was in the area and secondly it was such a fine day, I had the opportunity to walk up to Barr Beacon. It may only be 227 metres in height but its claim to fame is that it is the highest spot within the Metropolitan Borough of Walsall. Between the built up areas of Walsall and the now called Royal Sutton Coldfield there is several square miles of open countryside and so I decided to see what it had to offer as a circular walk.

My original plan was to park at Heyhead Wood Car Park but on my arrival, this rather rough secluded and empty car park was full of fly tipping and not the sort of place to leave a car for a few hours. The nearby car parks at either end of Barr Beacon were all closed and gates padlocked and in any case, the access roads into these car parks were on steep snow covered roads which would have been problematical. In the end I found parking in a small cul-de-sac just below Barr Beacon where there were some up market houses. It meant altering my intended walk a little, and to start off with it would mean some road walking with no pavements.

Setting off under a deep blue winter sky I am glad to leave the busy road to climb up onto the ridge north of Barr Beacon. From this high point there are good views to the east and to the west, and I now head south to the summit of Barr Beacon. The trig point itself lies within a reservoir compound with a secure fence but on the Trigpointing Website I read that there is a chink in its armour. After a little searching around I spot an upright rail missing and just wide enough to squeeze through into a small thicket on the reservoir compound side. It is just a short walk to the trig point but then I have to find my way out again through the little gap which is hidden somewhere in the thicket. Thankfully there is hardly anyone around to cause suspicion.

A sneaky visit to the trig point and the highest point within the Metropolitan Borough of Walsall. It stands on top of a reservoir compound.

Nearby on Barr Beacon is a restored war memorial with a tall flag pole nearby displaying the Union Jack and I stop here to photograph it in the snow with a deep blue sky as a back cloth.
My plan now is to stay with the recreational path called the Beacon Way which descends to reach the Rushall Canal at Hill Farm Bridge. The walk from Barr Beacon is pleasant enough with a view as far as the snowy Clee Hills in Shropshire. Descending, I cross a road then continue through woodland to join another road. I now have to follow this road for around a mile and initially there is no pavement and the road is quite busy, and furthermore icy in places. Thankfully further on there is a grassy path beside the road but I feel that this path is little walked. I later made a diversion into the churchyard of St Margaret’s Church at Great Barr. Although the tower dates from 1677 the church was largely rebuilt in 1862 in Gothic revival red sandstone. I next head west on a path through what was once the grounds of the Great Barr Estate and now a nature reserve. I emerged later onto the A34 dual carriageway which thankfully is fairly quiet to cross. A path on the far side runs down through a large sports complex with many pitches, but again I conclude that few people walk here. Way-finding becomes more difficult as I near Hill Farm Bridge due to the lack of signage and changes in the landscape which doesn’t agree with my map. As a result I end up by the Rushall Canal sooner than expect.

St Margaret’s Church at Great Barr on a cold snowy morning.

The Rushall Canal was built between1844 and 1847 by the engineer James Walker. It main use was to transport coal between the Tame valley Canal and the Daw End Branch Canal.

The Rushall Canal runs as straight as a dye for nearly three miles.

My plan now is to head north along the towpath and despite what lying snow there is on the ground it is gradually melting, however the canal remains largely frozen. I press on, ascending by Rushall Locks and later reaching the upper locks at Rushall where I opt to stop for lunch in the fine winter sunshine. There are a few people out walking in this area but what saddens me is the amount of fly tipping almost everywhere and in the water too.

Rushall Lock No 2. A good place to stop for lunch.

The Beacon Way below Barr Beacon provides an oasis of rural walking in a area dominated with urban sprawl.

The return leg of the walk to the car is relatively short and I leave the canal to re-join the Beacon Way once more. I cross a road and walk through the run down Heyhead Wood Car Park and continue on a path through a woodland belt but sadly the locals had used this for fly tipping also, despite the area being a nature reserve. I am pleased to see new signposting as I gradually ascend into more rural scenery and from Cuckoo’s Nook Nature Reserve I head south along a field boundary in the winter sunshine. I later cross the B4151 and continue on another field path before briefly joining a lane after which it is more field walking. It is pleasing to see that Walsall Council have put some money into footpath improvements with new kissing gates but again fly-tipping is a really big issue. I finally join a lane uphill to reach the car before the journey back to Macclesfield.
Well this was a bit of new territory for me to walk in, and overall the paths were good coupled with the weather sunny but the big downside is the amount of fly-tipping everywhere which seems to be a main problem in this area.

Along the shore of Loch Morar

The Iron Cross above Morar with a view towards the island of Rum. Is there rain on the way?

I had long planned a visit to Tarbet on Loch Nevis, and last summer I had the opportunity to visit this very isolated settlement. This walk needed some planning and would involve a bus journey out and a ferry back. Whilst in Mallaig, I confirmed that the ferry would call in to collect me from the isolated settlement of Tarbet which lies on the southern shore of Loch Nevis on the day of my walk. The ferry only serves this isolated settlement once a day and so missing the ferry would mean a very long walk out.

Tarbet or Tarbert means isthmus as it lies on a neck of land which connects two bodies or water. Tarbet on Loch Nevis is probably the least known of the three ‘Tarbets’ or ‘Tarberts’ in Scotland. The one in Knapdale is located on a neck of land between Loch Fyne and West Loch Tarbert whilst the Tarbert in the Outer Hebrides is located on the neck of land between Loch an Tairbeairt and Loch a Siar.

The day has arrived and I am setting off before the ferry office opens in Mallaig so I will need to call them once I got off the bus in Morar and then prior to losing the mobile phone signal.
The day isn’t exactly bright with a heavy overcast sky and bad light as I get off the bus at Morar. I venture in to take a look at the empty station before making my phone call to the ferry office. All I have to do now was to get to Tarbet by 3.30pm which gives me ample time.
In Morar I make a short detour up to the iron cross which overlooks the village before walking down the road to the outlet from Loch Morar and here plenty of water is rushing through among the rocks towards the open sea. This is the River Morar which claims to be the shortest river in Scotland.

Water races through the outflow from Loch Morar towards the sea.

It is a steady road walk now along the northern shore of Loch Morar to the road head at the tiny settlement of Bracorina and in the meantime the rain looks like setting in, and so at a convenient point at a picnic bench I don waterproofs. The water level on Loch Morar is well up and a brisk breeze sends small waves lapping along the shore. Over time the rain turns intermittent and thankfully peters out. At the end of the road, a sign indicates that Tarbet is seven miles but according to the ‘Walk Highland’ website this is a gross over estimate. Time is very much on my side as I set off on a good path above the shore.

The end of the road and ‘civilisation’. This is the start of the path towards Tarbet which is very good to start off with.

The ruinous chapel at Inverbeg. One or many settlements to disappear during the Highland clearances.

Brinacory, a Highland settlement now hidden and almost forgotten. The ruins of houses are almost lost in the bracken.

It isn’t long before I come to the shell of Inverbeg Chapel, a roofless ruin set just above the beach. An information board depicts its history in this remote part of Scotland. The chapel was built by the local people after the priest Ranald MacDonell returned from the Scots College in Spain in 1780. He was the priest in the area for some sixty years. The chapel was the meeting point for all the people living around the shores of Loch Morar. There was an earlier chapel on the nearby island of Eilean Ban but this was destroyed by government troops after the Battle of Culloden. As I head inland, so the countryside becomes remoter and by now my mobile phone signal has long since gone. The path condition gradually worsens but is still well defined and is somewhat boggy in places. Reaching the deserted settlement at Brinacory I find that it is now almost swallowed up by the tall bracken and the low walls of houses are only just visible. The path climbs and descends several times and at Sron Ghaothar comes right down to hug the shore. A section of the path has been built out into the loch with rough stone above a point where the loch plunges to over a thousand feet deep just offshore. Loch Morar’s claim to fame is that it is the deepest loch in Scotland and deeper than the London Shard is high. A mile further on I decide to stop for lunch in this the remotest of spots. A jumble of green and craggy mountains lie inland and opposite at the far side of the loch is the tiny settlement of Meoble which will be another walk for me some day in the future.

The path squeezes below a cliff on the shore of Loch Morar. The path has been built up into a causeway and just offshore, the water is over a thousand feet deep.

Making good time I set off again. It is only a mile and a half to Tarbet which will mean that I will have much time to kill. It isn’t long before I come to an isolated house at Wester Swordland which is in good order but empty. The only way to this place is along the path I am using. A short distance further on, I come across a much larger building. This is Swordland Lodge, a fine Victorian hunting lodge built during the 1870’s with its only easy access by boat along Loch Morar. I find out later that it had been little occupied since the 1960’s but seems in a good state of repair with recent work being carried out. With time in my favour I wonder down into the grounds to take a closer look.

Swordland Lodge, a fine Victorian mansion lies empty on the shore of Loch Morar. It has been little used since the 1960’s andt is still in a good state of repair.

A slightly better path now runs east before climbing to a hidden col and ascends to a cairn. A winding rough track leads down into Tarbet which today has a population of three. This is quite a fascinating place with a just handful of buildings including the old school cum chapel complete with a cross on the roof. One small grassy field is full of sheep but the place is fairly deserted. It seems that after a full day’s walk I feel that I am some sort of missionary trekking into the outback.

If you really want to get away from it all then try staying at Kylesmorar on Loch Nevis. You can only reach this place after a full day’s walk, alternately you need to have your own boat.

I still have over an hour before the boat is due and so I decide that I have the time to venture along the coast as far as Kylesmorar and back. The path climbs steeply uphill to round the headland at Druim Chuilinn and later zigzags its way down a steep slope overlooking Loch Nevis. The weather is clearing up by now to reveal a sunny afternoon. The going is slower than expected and I monitor the time I need to turn back. I have just enough time to get to this very out of the way hamlet before retracing my steps. The few buildings here are in good order and I understand they are now holiday lets with access only by boat or a long walk from the nearest road head. Talk about getting away from it all!

The sun comes out for me as I walk down towards the shore at Tarbet. The population of this settlement is three. the school cum chapel is on the right and this is the only field in the settlement.

I’m safely aboard the ferry having been taken out in this dinghy from the shore. It’s now a pleasant cruise along Loch Nevis to get back to Mallaig. A fitting way to round off the day.

In afternoon sunshine it is time to head back to Tarbet. On my return to the hamlet there is still no sign of anyone around and the ferry is due in around ten minutes, but now I realise that there may be a problem insomuch that the tide is right out and the little jetty is not big enough to get me aboard a ferry. I sit on the small slipway pondering. Two dinghies are tied up at the end of a slippery seaweed covered jetty. The prospect of getting into one of these with a loaded rucksack isn’t something I look forward to. As the allotted time comes for the arrival of the ferry, all is silent and no sign of any such boat. It’s not long before three more walkers appear along the pebbly beach and a man comes from the school cum chapel. The ferry is due, and the man will take us all out into the bay in his dinghy to board the ferry as he is awaiting some mail. As the ferry arrives it stops a couple of hundred yards offshore in Tarbet Bay. I am first to board the dinghy from the slippery jetty and without mishap I take my place in the bow. The other three walkers board to take their places in the middle of the dinghy. It’s a short sprint across the bay and once alongside the ferry I am asked to grab hold of one of the old tyres with are slung along the side of the vessel. A ladder is passed over the side for us to climb aboard. With all three walkers safely aboard and with me holding the dinghy to the side of the ferry it is then my turn and I just pray that the dinghy doesn’t drift away from the ferry whilst I’m clambering up the ladder. Very relieved I make it aboard for the return trip via Inverie to Mallaig.
It’s been a fascinating day out and somewhat an adventure into the wilderness. It was nice that the weather had cleared up by the time I’d reached Tarbet and this was followed by a lovely boat trip along Loch Nevis aboard the MV Western Isles, a old wooden fishing vessel.

Setting out to walk part of the Offa’s Dyke Path from a historic county town.

 

St Nicholas Church Montgomery dates from the 13th century, however, the tower dates from the 19th century. In the churchyard is located the infamous Robber’s Grave.

For many years I have been walking parts of the Offa’s Dyke Path with the aim one day of finishing it. I have now got to the stage where it is no longer feasible to use buses to make each trek into a linear walk. (ie bus out and walk back) One such section is the stretch of the Offa’s Dyke Path between Montgomery and Knighton and my research had showed that over most of this area there are no buses. I set to work planning out several circular walks in this very rural part of the Powys/Shropshire border and so last spring I set out to plug this gap and the following account covers just the first day.

My plan is to follow paths south from Montgomery to reach the high ground along which runs the Kerry Ridgeway which I will follow east to reach the Offa’s Dyke path and here I will then follow this path back to almost Montgomery. I am expecting a few path problems on the outward trek but once I reach the Offa’s Dyke Path I hope that it will be all straightforward walking.

I’m parking in Montgomery for this walk where there is a free car park on the southern edge of the town. Montgomery, despite its size with a population of less than thirteen hundred is generally referred to as a town although there are many larger settlements in Britain which would be classified as a village.

The remains of Montgomery Castle command a fine view over the surrounding area. Information boards depict a rich history of not only the castle but the surrounding area.

The early bright sunshine of earlier has gone except to the east and as I don walking gear soft hail begins to fall but thankfully there is very little in it.
I wander into Montgomery first to have a look at its architecture. It is a fascinating place and was once the county town of the historic county of Montgomeryshire.
There are many old buildings in the centre around the town square which include the town hall but it never really made what I would call a town. It is unfortunate that it is now too dull for photographs so I’m setting off by walking uphill towards the castle passing many old cottages on the way. The castle sits on a rocky spur and was a very strong fortress in its time and guarded a strategic position in the area. Built by Henry III in the 1220’s the castle was often attacked by the Welsh and was successful in defending off many Welsh raids until the English Civil War when it was taken by Parliamentarian forces who destroyed the castle so that it was no longer a military threat. The town on the other hand didn’t fare so well.

The slender War Memorial on Town Hill is a fine view point and was erected in 1923 of Portland Stone.

Leaving the castle ruins I’m next making for Town Hill which is crowned by a tall war memorial built in 1923. On today’s visit there are good views from the summit stretching to Cader Idris, the Arans and the Berwyn ranges to the west and the Stiperstones to the east.

Where is that elusive sunshine? It seems now that I am in for a cloudy and cold day. To get to the Kerry Ridgeway I now trek across country and I know that being in Powys I will have some path problems. Initially the path south from Town Hill is good but in one field there is a large herd of cows together with a bull and thankfully they just ignore me. A sign on the gate beyond, and facing in the opposite direction states that the bull is good natured. At the lane junction beyond Lower Mount Farm I opt to take a field track which is not a right of way with a plan of connecting with a dead end path which ends at a parish boundary. The field track which is not a right of way turns out to be easy but where the field path joins the next minor lane there is simply no way through. It appears that this is a path totally forgotten about and as a result I have to scale a fence and force my way through a hedge to gain the lane. Soft hail falls for awhile as I make my way towards Perthbyu but the direct field path seems to disappear as I reach a woodland block. I decide to ascent to the better bridleway higher up the hillside and then take a private ‘no right of way’ track down to near Perthbyu. From here I join a lane to reach the A489.

The path running below Caeliber Isaf. I was now heading across the valley and up the hills on the far side. To get there, I had several path problems to negotiate .

To reach Lower House I am expecting path problems and I am right. Firstly, I have to force my way through a gate which is surrounded with brambles before crossing diagonally a field. At the far side I can see a new bard wire fence. There is the remains of a stile which I manage to cross but beyond a stream presents a bigger problem which is just too deep and wide to leap over. A slight diversion is called to find a farm bridge a little further east. I cross another pasture and find a gate at the far end which is encouraging but a ditch beyond and a substandard stile creates a minor obstacle to get over. At Lower House, a field path is signed which leads to the farm at Binwilkin and for once presents no problem except for an awkward stream to cross embedded in a hedge after the first field. I now make my way to Pentrenat Hall, and shortly afterwards take a hill track with a very long ascent. I now search for somewhere to have a late lunch. The track is good to Upper Hatfield but beyond, the woodland section is quite poor and has been churned up by four wheel drive vehicles. In the end, I decide to walk further east up through the woodlands but this is not the course I want to take. At the top of the wood I find a spot for lunch where another path crosses and here I stop at a spot out of the cold breeze to eat my sandwiches.

Setting a course north along the Offa’s Dyke Path as seen from near Crowsnest. This was the easy part of the walk.

Brompton Mill  lies on the English Welsh border. The mill is just inside  England but this photograph was taken from within Wales.

The Offa’s Dyke Path on the approach to Montgomery provides several miles of good walking along field boundaries with the embankment ever present on your right. In many places there are fine displays of wild flowers. The path here is just in Wales, whilst the other side of the hedge on the right is in England.

A further easier ascent leads up to Hopton Bank where the views open out. I now head east on a quiet lane along the ridge with good views all round. I stop at gates to admire these views and over the next two miles only one vehicle passes me.
At Crowsnest it is time to join the Offa’s Dyke Path which I now follow back almost all the way to Montgomery. There now follows a very long descent where there is evidence of Offa’s Dyke running down the hillside. A lane is joined briefly through the hamlet of Cwm. In a little over a mile I have descended around one thousand feet. I continue through a woodland section with the caravan park at Millington Hall on my right. A road is joined at Brompton passing its attractive mill. The sunshine has returned for the end of the day and now I have a few miles of pleasant field walking much of which is along the English Welsh border. The Offa’s Dyke is clearly defined along this section running as an embankment along field boundaries with copious displays of wild flowers. This sunshine makes all the difference and so it is time to pause for a few photographs. I later turn left and take a good track through Lymore Park before joining a field path back to Montgomery.

Island dreams and staying upright

The track beside the Manchester Ship Canal which runs from Wigg island to Moore Nature Reserve. It was rather icy on this occasion.

I am off to visit an island and so I cast a vision in my mind of sun drenched sandy beaches backed by palm trees with deep blue skies and a sparkling sea. Hang on a minute as I came to my senses, this island doesn’t have any of these ingredients.

It’s a cold December day and it’s true that I am visiting an island except this place tells a very different story. Wigg Island is a slice of land lying between the estuary of the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal. With a reasonable day of weather I want to see if I can do a circular walk by taking in part of the Mersey Valley Trail on my return.
I want to find out if the path between Wigg Island Community Park and Moore Nature Reserve is open to the public. I knew that the track east from Wigg Island had been closed due the construction of the Mersey Gateway Bridge but I am glad to see that it had reopened despite some closure signs still in place. On close inspection, the closure had expired in October 2017.

Parking at Wigg Island Community Park I’m setting off to walk towards Moore Nature Reserve via the track cum path which runs along the northern bank of the Manchester Ship Canal. I soon pass beneath the new Mersey Gateway Bridge. There is a little snow left on the ground but a slow thaw is setting in and the bright sunshine of the previous day is not going to be repeated. A veil of high cloud is slowly spreading in heralding a change in the weather later in the day.

Now Wigg Island has had a rather unattractive history. Being hemmed in between the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey, the island was the location for the chemical industry. Wigg Island Alkali Works once dominated the area and during World War II due to its isolated location, it was a site for the production of mustard gas. Today the area has been long cleared of anything obnoxious and the site has been developed as a nature reserve.

Fiddlers Ferry Power Station is reflected in the River Mersey on this still December morning.

Walking east, I follow a rough lane and later path which is not marked as a right of way on the map but there are no restrictions. I have decided not to wear micro spikes as there isn’t much snow but the unseen problem on this lane is the areas of black ice. Heading generally east, I have the place to myself and continue on the track with many icy puddles and hemmed in between the Manchester Ship Canal on my right and security fencing on my left.
A security gate further on is fixed open and seems to have been in that position for some time judging by the vegetation around it. Beyond this spot I am back on a right of way and soon reach a spot where the Mersey Estuary comes close to the Manchester Ship Canal. I pause briefly and take a few photographs across to the Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station which is reflected in the waters of the River Mersey. The track leading to Moore Nature Reserve is extremely icy today and almost impossible to walk along and so I cross to the rough ground on the southern side where progress is much easier and there is a wide grassy path.

I re-cross the Manchester Ship Canal via Moore Lane Swing Bridge and soon take a field path towards the village of Moore. At the rugby club on the near side of the village I opted to divert, with thoughts of stopping for an early lunch if I find a bench. I edge my way around the car park which is covered in sheet ice and find some undercover picnic benches which is an ideal spot for my break. It has a view across the snowy rugby pitch and beyond to the Fiddlers Ferry Power Station. This place is called ‘The Gentlemen of Moore RUFC’ and today being a weekday it is an idea spot to stop for lunch but perhaps not on a Saturday.

A cold winters day beside the Bridgewater Canal near Moore. Days like this can make for good walking when the ground is frozen.

I set off again to enter the village of Moore but the pavements are extremely icy. I leave the village by taking a path beside the village pub then it is out cross snowy fields, over the railway to reach the Bridgewater Canal. The canal is frozen as I follow the towpath south passing the Daresbury Science Park on the way. Later, I leave the towpath and take a muddy path downhill passing beneath the railway before crossing the valley of Keckwick Brook. A reasonable path leads across to the Runcorn arm of the Bridgewater Canal, which I now follow north along the towpath for three quarters of a mile and crossing sides at Norton Bridge.

The outline of old canal side crane beside the Bridgewater Canal west of Moore.

My plan is to follow the Mersey Valley Trail around to near Halton Castle which is largely through woodlands. Way-marking is a bit ‘hit and miss’ and there were many paths to choose from which calls for careful navigation. I stop many times to check my course and thankfully keep on the right route, however it would have been very easy to take the wrong path. I later cut up to a road as I near the historic village of Halton. It is ironic that despite being in Runcorn, I haven’t actually walked on a road since leave Moore several miles back. The village of Halton has been swallowed up by Runcorn but still retains many interesting and historic buildings. I make for the ruins of Halton Castle which is set on a hill with panoramic views. The castle ruins date from the 11th century and during the English Civil War was a Royalist stronghold but was attacked by the Parliamentarians twice. Afterwards the castle was largely dismantled, and over the following centuries deteriorated further. The path around the base of the castle walls provide a good view particularly out towards the new Mersey Gateway Bridge.

Probably the best view you can get of the new Mersey Gateway Bridge as seen from Halton Castle.

Leaving the hilltop I descend via steps and continue through Halton passing on the way Seneschal House which dates from 1598 and the oldest house in Runcorn. I have some road walking now to reach Boston Avenue before turning right between houses and crossing open ground to reach Stoneshill Lane. At the foot of the lane I cross the Bridgewater Canal and head west along the towpath before taking a path down to the swing bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal where it is just a short walk leading to Wigg Island. By now it has turned out a rather grey afternoon and the car park is near on empty.

I will be leading this walk again in the opposite direction on the 20th January so why not come along to walk in an area unfamiliar to the group.

Lets explore the Sheeffry Hills

A good forest track leads well up the southern flank of this range of hills then suddenly stops a little beyond this photograph. The mountains on the left is Ben Creggan, climbed a few days later.

Now you have probably not heard of the Sheeffry Hills and if you take into account that they rise well over 2000 feet they are not really hills but a mountain chain that make a formidable west-east barrier along the northern edge of Connemara in the west of Ireland. On a previous visit to Connemara, I didn’t manage to get a walk along the ridge but on my latest visit, this range was at the top of the list for a walk.

With the promise of a fine day I’m heading south via Louisburgh to park beside remote Doo Lough. From a very sunny Westport I have now run into cloudier weather conditions and cloud is flirting with the hills and not showing much sign of lifting so I decide to do the low level part of the walk first.

I set out by walking east along the quiet Sheeffry Pass Road for several miles, and with a spring in my step cover the ground quickly. It seems however, that most of the farms on the northern side of this road don’t want walkers on their land, but in any case I am heading further east and intended taking a forestry track to gain the hillside.
The low cloud is showing signs of lifting as I leave the road and the forestry track provides some easy graded walking as I zigzag up the hillside. Much of the forest has been felled which provides some good views. As expected the track suddenly end at a high point and I have no alternative than to scale an easy fence and make my way up through a short stretch of felled forest and this proves much easier than expected.

I’ve now reached the southern spur so this was a good place to stop for my morning break and the sun is finally making an appearance.

At the top edge I have a double fence to cross which isn’t as easy as the top strand is barbed wire. A steep ascent follows up the grassy hillside beside an old rusting fence to the crest of the hill and this is a good place to stop for my morning break. The sun has now made an appearance and the way ahead looks inviting via a grassy ridge.

Not the highest point but the trig point stands at 762 metres at a minor high point along the ridge. What the photograph doesn’t relay is the gale force wind blowing from left to right.

Setting off, I made steady progress with another ascent to reach a stony and rather featureless plateau. I set a course to the eastern summit of Tievebinnia 742 metres and the top isn’t really apparent until I was almost there but at least the low cloud has cleared his area. This featureless summit could have been easily missed in fog as it is only marked by a small cairn and I even have my doubts as to whether this is really the highest point as everywhere the ground looks about the same height. I don’t linger as the wind has got up to gale force and the place doesn’t warrant stopping for a photograph.

I now set off south westwards along the broad ridge with a steep slope on my right hand side. The low cloud comes and goes from time to time but the real problem is the wind which has risen to gale force from nowhere. I am buffeted along the ridge and decide not to stop until I reach the trig point at Tieveummera 762 metres. The low cloud is being blown across the ridge from left to right and so my visibility is often reduced to a few hundred yards.

Looking east along the ridge of the remote Sheeffry Hills provides several miles of good upland walking.

The best part of the ridge is nearing the western end where it narrows before the ascent to Barrclashcame, (behind me)  and the highest point at 772 metres.

I take a few photographs at the trig point but decide to press on as it is just too windy to stop for lunch here. The ridge now narrows somewhat to make this next section the most interesting part of the walk with a rocky slope on my right and a steep slope on my left. It is such a pity that the wind is so strong that I decide not to linger on this stretch. A final ascent takes me to the summit of Barrclashcame, which at 772 metres was the highest point of the day and the ridge. The summit is marked with a small cairn but with time getting on I want somewhere to stop for lunch. I head a little distance north from the rounded summit and find a slightly less windy spot but it is by no means perfect. Cloud sweeps over the top of the mountain and is being funnelled down the lee slope in spirals. It is fascinating to watch but I am anxious to move on as soon as I have finished lunch.
From my observations on my outward route it is easier to descend from Barrclashmore on the ridge that runs south, southeast before bearing right nearing the foot, as the western slope overlooking Doo Lough is steep with crags. I set off down what is quite a steep slope zigzagging my way to find the easiest ground. Forty five minutes sees me at the foot of the mountain by which time the weather has improved immensely. A leisurely road walk along the shore of Doo Lough takes me back to the car. Starting a couple of hours later on this walk would have given me far better weather.

Down  at base, the weather has improved. This little harbour is beside Doo Lough .

The other Avon Gorge

The River Avon at Keynsham. It was in the fields on the right where the Duke of Monmouth confronted James II in 1685 in one of several skirmishes during the Pitchfork Rebellion.

We are all familiar with the Avon Gorge through which the River Avon cuts its way through a deep channel between Bristol and the Severn Estuary. Probably the most famous view of the gorge is taken from Cumberland Basin towards Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge, a view synonymous with Bristol, but south east of Bristol, on its route from Bath, the River Avon cuts through another less known gorge sometimes referred to as Hannah Gorge. It is not as impressive as its famous neighbour and rather than bounded by cliffs on either side, this gorge is more steeply wooded with just the occasional cliff outcrop. Hanham Gorge makes an idea winter’s walk and so earlier this month I set off on a nine mile ramble to walk the entire length of the gorge.

Missing the Bristol rush hour it’s going to be a later start than usual and parking in the suburbs of Bristol I make my way to Bristol Temple Meads Station to catch the train one stop to Keynsham.
I time it just nicely for the train to Keynsham by which time it is 11am when I alight. I am going to follow the Avon Valley Walkway back to Bristol but to reach it I need to walk a short section of the A4175 northeast to cross the River Avon where I doubled around to join the river side path. By now the frost has almost melted making the path very slippery and muddy and so I have to tread cautiously. It was in the pastures here that in June 1685 the Duke of Monmouth confronted James II in one of many skirmishes during what was known as the Pitchfork Rebellion, but this particular clash resulted in an inconclusive outcome. A field path runs north with the former Fry’s Somerdale Factory on the opposite bank. It was here that my grandfather made the first chocolate bar when the factory originally opened around 1935. Today the premises have been converted to apartments.

The former Fry’s Somerdale Factory. Built as a state of the art factory and opened in 1935 the factory was taken over by Cadbury’s then by Kraft Foods and finally closed in 2011. Production then moved to Poland. The whole site is now being turned into apartments.

The Chequers Public House at Hanham Mills, a popular riverside spot to visit at the weekend.

I follow a path which is muddy in parts to take me towards the popular riverside Chequers Public House at Hanham Mills and on the way I stop for my morning break in the pleasant winter sunshine. Beyond the Chequers Public House, the River Avon runs through the wooded Hanham Gorge. The gorge looked very different centuries ago and the area was once home to much heavy industry. Prior to the weir being built at Netham, the River Avon was tidal to about this point, and with the abundance of coal measures in the vicinity it became an area for heavy industry. Copper and zinc was imported from Cornwall for processing as long ago as the 17th century and hence the area developed as an important early industrial powerhouse in the West Country although few traces of this can be seen today but waste slag was compressed into building blocks can be still seen today in local riverside walls. During Victorian times, the hillsides were quarried for Pennant Sandstone and coupled with the supply of nearby Bath Stone the two types of stone were extensively used as stone for much house building in the area. The Bath Stone was used around windows and doors whilst the Pennant Sandstone in filled the rest of the building and this is almost a building trademark around the Bristol area.

The Hanham Gorge sees very little sunshine in mid winter. The riverside path is good in this area but its popularity  has made it rather muddy during the winter months.

The wooded Hanham Gorge looks so different now to a century ago. A sandstone cliff outcrop can be just seen above the river on the right.

The wooded gorge now narrows for a couple of miles and the valley was used by Brunel for the route of the railway which carves it ways through a couple of ornate tunnels on the opposite bank.
Being mid winter, much of this section of the gorge is in the shade and on the way I pass the point where the Conham Ferry carries passengers in season over to Beese’sTea Rooms on the opposite bank. These premises have been going since 1846, and are popular as a spot where Bristolian’s can escape to a haven of tranquillity for awhile. The woods in the area were the scene where persecuted Baptists once held secret meetings but on more than one occasion the meetings were met with violence. This area also had heavy industry with the Butler Tar Works on one side of the river and the Board Mills on the other. I soon emerge back into the winter sunshine and at the Conham River Park I decide it’s a good spot to stop for lunch as there were a few picnic benches.

A old boat house opposite the Conham River Park, one of many along this stretch of the river.

Setting off, I have to follow the Conham Road the short distance to Crew’s Hole before joining a surfaced riverside path. The derelict sites of heavy industry have now been replaced by riverside dwellings as I head downstream but there is still much evidence of old riverside wharves. As I near Netham, light industry is still much in evidence but only on a small scale. As a child I remember this area being very run down and very polluted as the area was originally dominated by the Netham Chemical Works which backed onto both the River Avon and the Feeder Canal. The waste products from these works were dumped in what is now known as Netham Park. In the 1800’s steam cranes could unload barges, a ton at a time and the whole site was a sea of wooden buildings, tramways and rickety chimneys. The chief import was pyrites from Spain which was broken up to supply the hundred or so kilns on site for the manufacture of sulphuric acid along with the manufacture of washing soda as the other big industry. The spoil from the vast works was dumped nearby to form a moon like landscape which was locally known as ‘The Brillos’. Today much of the area has been landscaped but modern industry now occupies part of the area.

Netham Lock is the lowest lock on the River Avon and the river below here is tidal. Here the river splits in two with the ‘New Cut’ becoming a tidal river running through the south side of the City. It is hard to imagine the man hours that went into building this artificial river between the years 1804-1809. For most of its 1.8 mile length the waterway has been cut through Redcliffe Sandstone to form a gorge like channel. The original course of the River Avon runs through what is known as the Floating Harbour which passes through the centre of Bristol. In its heyday, Bristol was one of the most important ports in the country but became very overcrowded and prior to the Floating Harbour being built ships were grounded in the river at low tide and goods had to stowed safely and quaysides had to be of a sturdy construction and hence the phrase ‘Ship shape and Bristol fashion’. The River Avon has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world.

I continue through Netham Park pausing at information boards before crossing the stretch of water known as The Feeder. Now this is where the path become unclear and I head off through industrial units to fine a very uninviting path between high security fences. Reaching the River Avon (New Cut) beneath the old railway viaduct I set out along the river bank. The place is strewn with rubbish and the path often blocked with fallen trees and after a short distance I decide to back track as the route beyond drops down almost to the river mud and looks decisively dangerous to proceed any further.

My entry into Bristol is via the busy industrial Feeder Road to reach a busy road crossing point close to Temple Meads Station. I continue along Clarence Road passing the end of Somerset Road where once my ancestors lived over a hundred years ago. The area has changed vastly with the lines of terraced houses now replaced with high rise flats and apartments. Finally I cross the river by way of a yellow footbridge locally known as Banana Bridge due to its shape and paintwork. A walk across Victoria Park leads me back to where I have parked the car.

WALKING THE COPPER TRAIL Day 4

Day 4;- The Rain it Raineth Every Day

A bright day. Well perhaps not. A rare glimpse of some blue sky as I head north from St Neot.

It’s the last day of walking the Copper Trail and this final leg of nearly sixteen miles covers the section from St Neot to Bodmin. No bus runs to St Neot from the Bodmin direction and so I have to get the bus which runs along the A38 towards Liskeard and alight at Trago Mills.
It is a smart start and like the past few days the rain starts as I don walking boots and make my way down to catch the bus in Bodmin. I leave the bus at Trago Mills where I find a shelter to don full waterproof gear as it’s going to be another exceedingly wet day.
I am glad to get off the short section of the busy A38 I have to walk as it has no pavements and I soon take  a narrow lane running uphill. Little traffic uses this road but it’s ironic that two vehicles meet at the point where I am walking. I trudge on via the empty hamlet of Ley then skirt Goonzion Downs towards St Neot.
The rain is easing off but the wind whistles through the telegraph wires. Is this really August in Cornwall or is it November? At least at St Neot the rain has gone off, and for now the day is looking more promising. In the bus shelter I shed my waterproofs and whilst I’m there the little daily bus turns up empty and then leaves picking up no one for its journey back to Liskeard. How much longer will these rural services continue?
I am aiming for Colliford Lake next which means ascending on a series of narrow lanes via Hilltown Farm, Tremaddock Farm and later north to Whitebarrow Downs. Where is everyone today? Every house I pass seems empty despite cars on the drive. Does anyone ever go out? Even the fields are deserted of any human activity. Nearing Colliford Lake the weather doesn’t look so good and around here there is very little shelter. I stop to put on my waterproof coat and with umbrella up and head down I head for a clump of trees at the eastern end of the reservoir dam. It is time for my morning break at this exposed spot but at least I have limited shelter.

The weather is on the change and on this occasion it turned out a very wet day.

Pressing on across the dam the rain continues, backed by a brisk and cold north westerly. The day is turning quite foul but for awhile the rain is easing. I have some road walking now but I have to battle into a head wind. A left turn takes me across the southern edge of Redhill Down but I have to run for cover at the entrance drive to Mannabroom Farm. It’s now time to don full waterproof gear as this wet weather was setting in. I decide to press on using my umbrella to keep the worse of the rain off and for awhile follow a lane until the rain turns into a deluge. A thick tree offers shelter but I need somewhere to study the map and route text without getting it wet. I do manage it to a degree then continue to memorise the route but this isn’t easy beyond Tor House.
I cross open moor with much bracken but can’t remember which way to go afterwards however I know the rough direction. It’s just too wet and windy to read the map. I know I have to go through Whitewalls Farm and I here I feel that I take the wrong route by going through the garden instead of around the farm buildings. By now it is raining so hard that I think it doesn’t really matter. I take the farm drive south and find a large oak tree with some shelter. It is time for lunch and having found a place to sit, it isn’t long before the rain is coming through the tree and so I end up eating lunch stood up under my umbrella.

When it is lane walking, it is easy navigation but not so when you are on paths during a deluge as was the case on this day. This was the last photograph I took on this walk as the weather soon closed in

I continue south across Warleggan Down then right to Treveddoe Farm. Again it is too wet to manage any serious map reading but from memory I just skirt the farm and luckily gates appeared where I guessed they should be. I now drop down to a wooded valley but take a wrong path through woodland and over very wet ground. Back on route I continue along the valley into some woods with tall stands of beech trees which give limited shelter. With the rain easing off, I stop for a break by some felled logs. I am still on my intended route and carefully plan and memorised the next mile and a half of my walk which is mostly lane walking.
I head south towards the small village of Mount and for awhile the weather improves and I have thoughts of removing my waterproofs when I get to Mount but before I get there, the heavens open again. At least at the crossroads in the hamlet there is a good shelter and time to plan my next leg of the walk. Leaving Mount I head west before taking a minor lane southwest to Little Downs and meanwhile the rain is becoming lighter before fizzling out. I later veered right at a village green and cross a road en route to Cardinham Castle not that there was anything there to see. Castle Farm presents some navigation problems and with the rain returning I find a tree to get under and to sort out the instructions in my guide. The photocopied sheets of paper showing my marked up route for the trail are now in a sorry state but have been invaluable up to now.
I do find the right path which drops down to a valley and through a garden with a gate which opens out onto a parked car which prevents me from squeezing through. Failing to open it that way, I have to excavate part of the drive to force the gate the other way. I now opted to take a small diversion to visit the historic Cardinham Church and its ancient crosses. One cross is said to be the best preserved Saxon Cross in England and stands immediately outside the south porch. I remember being here with John Goodman on our walk from Tiverton to Bodmin a few years earlier in much better weather.
Back tracking, I follow the lane south then west to the hidden hamlet of Milltown. A track west leads into Deviock Wood which is full of well signed trails for walkers and cyclists. A good forest track leads west to Ladyvale Bridge. Here I turn right onto a quieter track which leads up the Lidcutt Valley. I later leave the wood and follow a field path and now it is time to remove those waterproofs as the sun is making an appearance. A left turn takes me up an enclosed path but it was time to get those secateurs out again. Beyond, I cross yet another field with cows and a bull and I have no real option but to walk past them.
I continue with an overgrown track beyond and now the rain returns once more. A right turn at Callybarrett Cottage takes me onto another track to reach a road before crossing the A30 once more and a walk down into Bodmin. It rains once more before I reach the car after and what has been a fairly wet walk I was still surprisingly dry however a pulled muscle in my right leg and this is causing some concern.
Well I have completed the Copper Trail and overall it has been quite an enjoyable walk. The downside has been the weather and I had certainly chosen the wrong week. It is fairly apparent that few people walk this trail as I had not seen any other serious walker the whole time. Today’s walk has been the wettest which did mar it a bit. Despite paths being signed, many were rather overgrown with a lack of usage. Well this is inland Cornwall.

Details of the route can be found on the following web link however the route has change slightly in places since I walked the trail in 2014;-
www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Copper+Trail