The Tas Valley Way part 2

The Tas Valley Way Logo sign which appears intermittently along the trail.

It is day two of my walk along the Tas Valley Way and I need to get from Cringleford to Long Stratton by bus so that I can pick up the trail where I left off on the previous day. The cheapest way to do this is to get a ‘day ticket’ on the bus which will get me into Norwich then out again.
It’s a cool, grey and cloudy October morning as I wait for the bus on the main Wymondham to Norwich road. A endless line of cars are heading like every other day towards the City centre. Thankfully the number 15 bus is only running a few minutes late and it is good that a bus lane runs much of the way into the City Centre so I get there quicker than many of those car drivers that had passed me whilst waiting at the bus stop. In Norwich, my bus pulls in opposite the next bus I want, – the number 38 which will take me down the A140 to Long Stratton. My timing is perfect insomuch that I was starting my walk a half hour earlier than planned and it’s not even 9am!

A typical view across the water meadows at the start of day two. The isolated church at Forncett St Mary is visible across the valley.

Leaving the bus at Long Stratton I head west to pick up the Tas Valley Way where I left off yesterday. This time I vary the route so as not to trek across so many ploughed fields and head out via the hamlet of Bustard’s Green. A brisk wind blows across the open fields on what is quite a cloudy and nondescript morning. After a good half hour, I rejoin the Tas Valley Way to head north and for once I am now in a very shallow valley with crop fields on my right and poor grazing meadows interlaced with water channels on my left. This is the scenery for the next two miles and some of the meadows have cattle grazing. Along this section I stop at a stile for an early morning break. I later cross the infant River Tas then continue north with water meadows now on my right. Ironically this is the only point I see the River Tas on the whole walk.

On a diversion to visit St Margaret’s Church at Hapton I find the building locked.

Reaching the small village of Hapton I opt to divert and visit the local church but the place is locked. Returning to the Tas Valley Way, my route now passes through the grounds of Hapton Hall which is a fairly upmarket equestrian centre with countless paddocks and stables and stable girls everywhere learning on the job. The place is a hive of activity unlike much of Norfolk I’d seen so far.

Typical walking on the Tas Valley Way south of Bracon Ash – good,dry paths.

Beyond, I joined a road briefly, and again divert along a hidden enclosed path to visit the little church at Flordon and like Hapton Church it is locked but this churchyard is very overgrown and neglected. To reach Bracon Ash the landscaped changes and I cross slightly higher ground with well maintained arable fields and a good path to boot. At Bracon Ash I briefly join a lane then take a woodland path north but I go slightly astray due to the numerous paths being unsigned. Some road walking follows to reach the larger village of Mulbarton and entering this larger community I opt to stop for an early lunch break in a small park with many seats close to a large but empty play area. By now the sun is making more of an appearance.

The northern part of Mulbarton lies around a large common which I cross and head to the village church which is unlocked. Inside I find a detailed documentation of those who were killed during World War I together with much information on local family trees. It makes for some interesting reading, and on a wet day I could have spent some time reading about the short lives of the various soldiers from their birth through childhood to their sad end during the World War I.

The church of St Mary Magdalen at Mulbarton was open and was well worth the visit.

From Mulbarton I leave The Common and take an extremely overgrown path west and one I will report to Norfolk County Council on my return home. Afterwards I head northwest and now the conditions are better but it appears that the Tas Valley Way had been re-routed away from this overgrown path. As I head north it is ironic that I enter a long section of shady woodland called The Carrs to walk through just as it turns a really sunny afternoon. Afterwards I have water meadows on my left again but this isn’t the River Tas which takes a course well to the east and far out of site. A lane is followed west from Swardeston Common before joining a footpath through Lower East Carleton. I join the same lane again further west then take a driveway north followed by a field path with a couple of fields with cattle in including a bull which thankfully carries on grazing. Of note along this section is a series of broken stiles which means that I will report these faults to Norfolk County Council later. The remainder of the Tas Valley Way is via lanes to reach Cringleford and on the way I stop at Intwood Church which is dominated by its tall flint round tower. There was little of interest beyond this point as I follow residential roads through Cringleford to the northern terminus of the Tas Valley Way which I take to be Cringleford Bridge over the River Yare but there is no evidence that I have reached the end of the trail.

Isolated Intwood Church seems to be all that is left in this parish. The church has a fine round tower.

The attractive thatched lodge at the entrance drive to Intwood Hall.

The afternoon is still young so I continue my walk slightly by visiting Eaton Church. It had been fifty eight years since I was here last, when with my parents I attended the wedding of an aunt and uncle. The medieval church which is thatched, now has the addition of a large modern second church attached on the southern side which I feel has spoilt the fabric of the older church. In my opinion it would have been better to have built a second church away from this historic building.

It is merely a case now of heading back to the Travelodge at Cringleford but not before a brief visit to the parish church in the village. My route back is parallel to the busy A11 dual carriageway which is rather unpleasant and noisy for the last mile.

Another trail had been completed but overall this trail didn’t have a lot to offer except for passing through one or two interesting villages. I feel that Norfolk County Council have failed to maintain and promote this path. I came across so many rotted wooden way markers dumped or propped up in hedges and in places vital way markers were simply missing. At least I had two dry days in which to undertake this walk and saw no one else walking it except for the occasional dog walker. I am left with the question,- Will the Tas Valley Way fade into obscurity in the not too distant future?

Volunteers required – Lost Paths

I have now got to the stage where I have got together evidence to be able to start the process of making a claim for some lost paths that lie in our area. To process this task further I would be grateful if we could have volunteers to help to make these claims. It will be beneficial if anyone that is interested to make themselves known to me, and then I can go through what is required prior to the training session(s).The British Horse Society and the Ramblers are organising two local training sessions on howto about the process of claiming ‘lost paths’.

These training sessions are being held at Sheffield on Saturday 3rd November and at Bramhall on the 4th of November and the link below gives all the details;-

For Sheffield event

http://listings.bhs.org.uk/Events/eventdetail.aspx?id=2693

Adrian Flinn and I are able to attend the training session in Sheffield on the 3rd of November but not the one at Bramhall on the 4th of November. I can provide transport from the Macclesfield area.

For Bramhall event

http://listings.bhs.org.uk/Events/eventdetail.aspx?id=2649

Colin Park

The peculiar history of the Ordnance Survey

Brain Griffiths has asked me to publish this article in the Notice Board as it will be of interest to anyone who uses a Ordnance Survey Map. the article which appears in the BBC News website today has some interesting facts.

The link is as follows;-

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-45007577

Along the Tas Valley Way in two days.

One of several information boards along the Tas Valley Way. This one is at Old Buckenham.

I have walked most of the trails in East Anglia and for several years I have headed to that part of the country in the autumn as it is one of the areas of England that hangs on longest to the fine weather. It’s a time of year when the crops have been harvested and the fields are bare or have just been sown and generally the countryside is beginning to close down for the winter. The first signs of autumn are all around.

Walking in this part of the world may be flat but I love the wide open skies, the birdsong, and the attractive villages most of which have a medieval church to visit although more and more of these are now locked due to vandalism. So this year I opted to walk the Tas Valley Way. It’s a relatively unknown trail and winds its way across the Norfolk countryside between Attlebrough and Cringleford , the latter being located on the southern outskirts of Norwich. The trail will take me two days to walk and using the Travelodge at Cringleford as a base the first days walk will involve three bus journeys.
When planning these trips several months in advance I scroll through countless bus timetables on the internet to see if the walk is feasible by using buses. That done, I recheck to see if there are any timetable changes a few days before I set off on my adventure.

Luckily for me I can conveniently catch the school bus right to start of my walk. It’s the one and only bus where I can make the outward journey without a bus change in the town of Wymondham. It’s a early start to catch the 07.31am number 13 bus which is already packed with school children who almost all alight at Wymondham College. I’m leaving the bus at small town of Attleborough and decide first on a wander around the town centre before setting off this 17 mile long first leg of my walk. Despite a bypass, the town is choked with rush hour traffic as I make my way to the parish church of St Mary’s which is noted for its medieval wall paintings. There has been a church on this site since Saxon times but much of the building today dates from the 14th century.

St Mary’s Church, Attleborough noted for it’s fine wall paintings.

In Attleborough Town Centre by the attractive town sign, a feature of many towns and villages in East Anglia.

I set out southwest on the rather busy Hargham Road despite this being an unclassified road. The early morning showers that had scuttled in off the North Sea overnight are quickly disappearing to reveal a fine clear sunny autumn morning and just the weather for walking despite a cold breeze. I pace the first two miles out of Attleborough and leave the Hargham Road and join a minor lane south which soon crosses the main railway line. So far I have not found any way-markers to indicate that I am on the Tas Valley Way.

I later turn left on a good track. The overnight showers haven’t really ventured this far west and so walking is dry underfoot. I continue on minor lanes through the ribbon settlement of Fen Street to reach the attractive village of Old Buckenham. The village is set around the large Church Green. I make for the church of All Saint’s, an attractive old building with an octagonal tower and thatched nave. The building dates from around the 14th century but parts are from an earlier date. A sunny seat in the churchyard is an ideal spot for my morning break. It’s so peaceful with crows calling in the trees and the sun still giving a bit of warmth in this sheltered location.

All Saint’s Church Old Buckenham. The churchyard was an idyllic spot for my morning break.

A typical field path between Old and New Buckenham. Wide open skies give fine views and  field boundaries are often just a ditch.

A good field path leads east to Old Hall and after this a path diversion takes me along a field boundary rather than crossing a large ploughed field. The next village is New Buckenham and entering the village I divert on a field path to take a look at what is left of the castle. I discover that the site is private and the key is available from a house in the village. From what I could see I decide that it isn’t worth the effort. There is little left of the castle and the keep stands only a few metres high. Far more dominant is the circular water filled moat and tree covered embankment. I head for the village church of St Martin’s and take a look inside. The church is quite a substantial building which reflects the wealth in this area.The village is unusual in this part of the world as the streets are laid out in a grid pattern. Looking around the village there are many historic buildings including the timber framed Market House which dates from the 16th century.

St Martin’s church at New Buckenham reflects the wealth and importance of a village in medieval times.

Interior of St Martin’s Church, New Buckenham.

The Market House in New Buckenham dates from the 16th century and is just one of several historic buildings in the village.

The blue skies of earlier are quickly filling in as I head east and furthermore, the path is now less well defined. At one point I take a wrong turn and have to back track across a very rough field before reaching Fir Covert Road. After a little road walking I set off again eastwards on an ill defined path that runs across ploughed fields to reach Shrubbery Farm. Beyond, I continue following field boundaries which are merely deep ditches and no hedges in this largely open landscape. One problem is that in many places the fields have been ploughed almost to the top edge of the ditch which makes walking a bit slow. At Boundary Fruit Farm, I return to some lane walking and later turn right onto the busier Fen Road. For some while I have been looking for a suitable spot to stop for lunch out of the cool breeze and leaving Fen Road I find a disused stile to sit on but it does mean clearing it of overgrown vegetation. It’s a sheltered spot but over lunch a tractor comes slowly towards me cutting the hedges and so I speedily have to move out the way.

Setting off, the path to Cargate Common throws up a few problems insomuch that it is fairly overgrown and mistakenly I turn left slightly too soon. I only realise my mistake when I came to a padlocked gate but rather than go back I decide to continue through on a grassy track. I need now to find somewhere to turn south to reach Low Road and I am lucky that I find an empty elongated paddock to walk through between two properties. I open and closed gates quietly and I am soon on my intended route. I stay with the lane to Valley Farm and once more continue on a field path which is initially very good. A little beyond, the path becomes ill defined and runs through a field of tall grass. Intermittent signposting is misleading as wooden posts (as been the case most of the walk so far) have rotted at their base and signs are now propped up in hedges or against trees and some pointing in the wrong direction. It’s at one of these misleading signs and by a rundown farm I mistakenly enter a field with horses which immediately shows an interest. I back track quickly to re plan my route which skirts farm buildings. Worse is to come as several farm dogs came out barking. Luckily I have my walking pole already for them. A woman casually calls the dogs off but I get the impression that walkers are not welcome here. With that issue over, I continue east on the farm track to the next lane where I turn right for a couple of hundred yards. The next path east doesn’t have any problems for once and it is an easy walk through to a road called Pottergate Street. At the end I cross Muir Street but the path through to Killarney Farm throws up other problems insomuch that what is shown on my map doesn’t agree with what signage is on the ground. I just use my initiative and only have to back track once. I head northeast next on another track before it became a path. I had made good progress and now it is decision time as to whether I head east to Long Stratton to catch a bus back or press onto Mulbarton and catch a bus into Norwich from there. The only thing is that I don’t have the bus times from the latter and anyway it would have meant a late finish. I soon made the decision to head to Long Stratton where I know that there are plenty of buses into Norwich. It is still only mid afternoon but at least it will give the opportunity for an early meal in Norwich. Paths east to Long Stratton are mostly across ploughed fields. The sunny skies have returned making a most pleasant afternoon. In Long Stratton I continue through a sprawling housing estate before making my way down to the A140 and lo and behold there is a bus waiting. It is perfect timing for the trip into Norwich. It is a quick visit to the bus station to get some timetables before venturing to the Bell Hotel Wetherspoons for a meal. With bus timetables in hand I time it perfectly to catch the bus 15 back to Thickthorn (Cringleford). I have saved much money by buying a day ticket for the three bus journeys and all for less than a fiver.

So who walks the Tas Valley Way? From my experience, very few walkers. The trail which has been removed from the most recent Ordnance Survey Maps and way markers are a bit hit and miss. I get the impression that it is one of though trails which will soon become a distant memory and some of the paths I followed have seen very little usage judging by the vegetation. Tomorrow is another day. Let’s see what I encounter on the rest of the trail. Part two to follow….

Weekend Christmas Lunch 2018

This year’s weekend Christmas lunch will be held on Saturday 15th December at 1.00 pm at The Windmill, Holehouse Lane, Whiteley Green, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK10 5SJ

There will be an optional, approximately 5 mile, walk beforehand details of which will be on the website nearer the time.

The menu is shown below and costs £23 for 3 courses and includes a tip for the staff.

To book a place please email me at teresahewitt@hotmail.com with your menu choices and preferably make your payment by bank transfer to:

Unity Trust Bank
Sort code: 60-83-01
Account number: 20129929
Please quote reference TMX.

Alternatively you can pay by cheque. If you want to pay by that method please send an email for further information to: Teresa Marshall at teresahewitt@hotmail.com

Please add your email address (and menu choices) so I can confirm your booking.

Please note the closing date for bookings is the 30th November but there is a limit on numbers so book early to avoid disappointment

The Windmill Christmas Fayre Menu 15th December 2018
Starters

Rich French Onion Soup, Warm Brie Scone

Chicken, Pancetta & Apricot Terrine, Pomegranate & Shallot Salad, Oat & Beer Cracker

Warm Smoked Mackerel, Pickled Golden Beetroot & Fennel

Chilled Mushroom Parfait, Apple Chutney & Seed Cracker (Vegan)

Mains

Roast Turkey With All The Traditional Trimmings

Braised Flat Iron Steak, Black Garlic & Truffle Mashed Potato, Bourguignon Sauce

Pan Fried Red Snapper, Potato Rosti & French Style Peas

Confit Aubergine Steak , Thick Cut Chips, Slow Cooked Tomato & Mushroom, Peppercorn Sauce (Vegan)

Sweets

Traditional Christmas Pudding & Brandy Sauce (Gluten Free Option Available)

Flourless Chocolate Torte, Candied Pecans & Poached Winter Fruits (Gluten Free)

Mulled Wine Cheesecake, Oreo Crumb, Orange & Brandy Curd

Seasonal Cheese, Figs, Chutney & Biscuits

Walking Offa’s Dyke neighbour

The main village street through Overton. Starting point for my walk.

Living in Cheshire we are lucky that we have so many trails close at hand. Each year I set myself a target to walk at least one local trail and this year I planned out a series of walks along the Wat’s Dyke Path. The 61 mile long trail follows close to the course of the embankment with the same name and generally runs parallel with its more famous neighbour Offa’s Dyke. Unlike Offa’s Dyke, Wat’s Dyke is a much smaller earthwork but predates Offa’s Dyke but its precise date has not been determined.
The southern end of the trail starts at Llanymynech south of Oswestry and winds its way generally north through Wrexham before reaching the coast at Greenfield, northwest of Flint.

Splitting the trail out into several sections my aim was to park at the finish point for each walk and use public transport to reach the start. So it’s already August before I venture out on my first walk. Rather than start at one end and methodically work my way along the trail I have decided to start at the village of Overton which lies in that bit of Wales which infringes into England and often was marked on old maps as ‘Part of Flint’. Overton is not quite on the Wat’s Dyke Path but is a convenient starting point as the bus passes through the village.

Leaving Overton, my walk descends to the valley of the River Dee.

I’m starting off with a drive to Wrexham early and park up close to the town centre which means a relatively short walk to the Wrexham Bus Station. I time it well to catch infrequent bus service number 146 to Overton.
I alight one stop early in the village as other people are getting off the bus and secondly the bus’s bell isn’t working which means I don’t have to shout down the bus to the driver to stop. In Overton, the church bells are ringing but other than that, the place is fairly quiet. The churchyard has some very elderly yew trees, one propped up with thick wooden stakes. I leave the village at the southern end and descend via a narrow concrete track which is busy today with tractors and trailers gathering in the harvest. At the foot of the slope, I cross a large field where combine harvesters are busy at work. Reaching the eastern bank of the River Dee I turn right to join the Wat’s Dyke Path and soon stop for my morning break on the river bank. The path beyond is good and well defined and runs for much of the way along the riverbank not that you could see much of the river due to the vegetation before skirting away to reach the A539. I have a little road walking here to cross the high Overton Bridge. This fine sandstone structure was built in 1814 after a previous bridge collapsed.

A flood level post marking the height of water on the 9th of February 1946.

I turn left after crossing the bridge onto a lane and after a quarter of a mile take a signed path downhill towards Erbistock Mill. The riverside path here is in great need of some tender loving care. Boardwalks are in a poor state of repair and many trees had fallen across the path or had been uprooted so there was some clambering about to do. I am glad to leave this section and I make my way across a field then along a rather overgrown path to Erbistock.
This little community is certainly tucked away and is dominated by The Boat Inn. Nearby is the little church which was built in 1860 as a memorial to Henry Ellis Boates by his wife Caroline. At one time there was a foot ferry over the River Dee but this ceased in 1939. In its heyday, over ten thousand passengers were carried in a single year. From studying the map I don’t know why this ferry was so popular as there is only rural countryside on the opposite bank.

One of many glimpses of the River Dee west of Erbistock.

The path west runs along a field boundary but this seems to wander down to the riverbank. I find out the hard way that this is a fisherman’s path and a dead end so have to clamber up a bank. Beyond, the path is again overgrown and hemmed in between the river and a steep slope with small sandstone cliffs in places. Where it opens out, I later take a path diagonally across a field to Lower Farm but now with a combination of a lack signposting, I go wrong which means squeezing through a bnarbwire fence to gain my intended path. From the river valley it is a short ascent to higher ground where I follow a path to a lane. With a right turn I soon reach the little neat church at Pen-y-lan and despite no seats in the churchyard, it is a good place to stop for lunch.

Lunch stop in the churchyard of Pen-y-lan Church. A fine building but in a isolated location.

After lunch it is mostly field walking, initially through pastures and some fields with grazing cattle. Near Yellow Oak Farm I take a wrong turn as the signage is misleading so have to back track a short distance. I now have some pleasant walking as the sun has decided to make an appearance. With the fields harvested and crows in the trees, it feels as if autumn was just around the corner.

At Dininlle Farm I am greeted by two barking dogs but at least they are friendly. I cross further fields and later a lane to continue through the grounds of Wynnstay Park. There are a few glimpses through the trees to the large Wynnstay Hall. The original owner, Sir William Williams came to prominent after the English Civil War and a series of marriages into the local gentry ended up with the family becoming one of the biggest land owners in northeast Wales. The family also owned several hotels/coaching inns and hence the large number of ‘Wynnstay Arms hotels’ around this part of the world.

Heading towards Wrexham alongside the Wat’s Dyke Path. Pleasant walking under sunny skies.

Reaching the A539, I turn left and shortly right to walk parallel with the Wat’s Dyke. The bank and ditch is visible over the next few miles but in most places very overgrown. The path runs north along field boundaries but in many places crops have been grown to the field edges and prior to reaching Pentre-clawdd Farm and beyond I have a few fields of fully grown maize to push my way through. I am just glad that the ground and vegetation is dry. For now, the sun continues to shine locally but further west it is quite overcast and the cloud cover will eventually win out. At Middle Sontley, I pass through a farm with many caged dogs and the way beyond is via a area of rough ground then a field where the wheat had been grown right up to the boundary. At the end of the field I am met by a barbwire fence and I have to squeeze through this. It is here that I find that the path has been running along in the adjacent field. Back on course, I head on to reach Erddig (National Trust). Many visitors are leaving via the drive I was walking along. I skirt the property on the western side which involves walking through the Erddig Country Park. After crossing the River Clywedog, a short ascent takes me into the southern suburbs of Wrexham where it is then all residential road walking back to the car.

So what are my first impressions of this trail? Way-marking is a bit patchy in places but it does exist. I feel that few people walk this trail and hence some paths are somewhat overgrown and a bit of path maintenance wouldn’t go amiss. Having walked this first bit of this trail the only reason I strayed from the path was due to the lack of signage. Overall, the trail passes through some interesting and very rural countryside.
There is a detailed guide book to the trail written by Pete Lewis and published by Alyn Books. Directions are interspersed with historical features along the trail. For me, I rather read this prior to walking as I didn’t want to be walking with my head in a book.

The Mullaghanattin Horseshoe walk

The panoramic view from the summit of Mullaghanattin. The Dingle Peninsula is visible in the far distance.

To the south of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks in County Kerry are a jumble of mountains which include some of the highest in Ireland but are well neglected as they are generally hard to get to and involve a car journey via narrow lanes.

The last part of the drive in to reach Mullaghanattin.

The Mullaghanattin Horseshoe appealed to me and this was a walk that didn’t disappoint on my recent visit to Ireland. There is limited parking at the start point which is at a road junction. Donning boots I am bitten by horse flies – one of the main problems on this trip to Ireland. First of all I have to back track along the road I had just driven and one thing that has concerned me is that at the last farm several Jack Russell dogs had come out barking at the car as I drove through. I am now about to face these dogs on foot. I have my walking pole at the ready as I march silently through the farm and indeed the dogs came out barking but thankfully seem quite harmless. Nearby, there are several caged dogs which might have caused more of an issue. In the process I seem to have set all the dogs off barking along the valley. I press on to a point where I intend to take a good track into the hills which leads some way up to gain the eastern end of the ridge. Nearing the track, a four by four turns up and heads very slowly up along the track into the hills. I am now concerned that I might be turned back by a farmer as the laws of access in Ireland are quite vague as some farmers welcome walkers whilst others certainly don’t want you on their land. As I ascend the track, the four by four is ascending slowly away ahead of me only to park where the track ends. Over the next mile I think about how I will enter into conversation with the farmers and think it best not to mention anything about whether it alright to walk here. Instead I opt to talk about the weather in a friendly manner and ask them the best way to gain the ridge. This ploy works a dream and happily I am soon on my way to the south eastern end of the ridge.

The south eastern ridge leading up towards Mullaghanattin.

This is trackless countryside as I head generally northwest along the very undulating ridge and following a fence line much of the way. I reach a secondary summit at 594 metres before making a steep ascent onto the eastern end of the ridge leading up to Mullaghanattin. This part of the walk gives some very rewarding walking with the rocky summit curving away ahead of me.  It doesn’t take long to get to the impressive 773 metre summit which is crowned with a trig point and what a view there is. It is virtually cloudless with the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks prominent to the northeast and countless peaks around me. It is quite windy on the top so I chose a spot just to the south to have my picnic lunch in the bright sunshine.

The spectacular ridge walk leading to the summit of Mullaghanattin.

On the summit of Mullaghanattin with the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks behind. Time for a spot of lunch.

The ridge walk ahead of me to start off the afternoon.

Spectacular scenery on Mullaghanattin with a view towards the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks.

I have several peaks to cross ahead of me for the afternoon leg of the walk. It is initially a fairly steep grassy descent to a col before climbing steeply to Beann North Top. The col is punctured by quite a rocky gully on the north side which you are on before you realise that it lies on your path. I skirt to the left before winding up the steep slope. Beyond, Beann North Top, a high level broad ridge leads up to Beann at 752 metres.  Beann provides some easy high level ridge walking along the line of a fence with the highest point about midway along.

The view back along the route I had taken with Mullaghanattin in the foreground.

The summit ridge along Beann with the view towards Kenmare River.

After a stop to take a few photographs I descend veering south to another col before ascending to Beann South Top. From here I have from past reports about this walk  not to descend southeast as there had been disputes with a farmer but instead to head south to reach a track where I can turn east to get down to the valley.

The view west from Beann with countless remote summits in west Kerry.

The view on my descent is dominated by the rocky peak of Finnararagh.

I set off south over increasingly rough countryside and follow the line of a fence for some distance. In places smooth sloping rock brakes the surface but this is at quite an incline to walk down. Lower down, tussocky grass is a bit of an issue but I can see my intended track ahead of me even though it takes awhile to get to it and involves crossing a couple of fences. Indeed the track does lead down to the valley but the route doesn’t agree to what is shown on the map. Within a large but fairly rough field I opt to cross it rather than following the track on a winding route which initially goes uphill again and hence cutting off a big corner. Lower down, I have to pass through a field of cattle not knowing if there is a bull in the field. The law on cattle is probably different in Ireland. After scaling a couple of gates close to but out of site of farms, I am relieved to join a lane which leads back to the car to complete a superb day in the mountains.

 

 

 

Glencoe’s hidden peaks

Setting off along the track towards Meall Lighiche our first peak of the day. Our route would take us from right to left up the ridge.

The drive from Glencoe Village along the A82 to Crianlarich is arguably one of the best drives in the British Isles and all the better if you are a passenger in a car. I’ve driven this route many times and it is always a section of the journey I look forward to. Most of the peaks in the area I have climbed and its now just a case of ticking off those last few. One such peak is very much hidden from view and one only gets a tantalising glimpse as you set off up the road from Glencoe Village.
Set well back and along the valley through which runs the Allt Muidhe stands the very steep Sgor na h-Ulaidh, a Munro which rises to just shy of a thousand metres.
For Nick Wild and me, it was our last full day in Fort William on a recent trip to the Highlands and on this walk we would combine a climb of the Corbett, Meall Lighiche summit also.

With the promise of a fine day we park near the foot of Glencoe and take the private road up the valley of the Allt Muidhe. Reaching the buildings at Gleann-leac-na-muidhe, an official diversion takes us on a path looping to the south and during my prior research on this walk I was aware of this. Beyond, we rejoin the track for a short distance.

Our first objective is the Corbett of Meall Lighiche which involves crossing the Allt Muidhe and thankfully the water is quite low. Ahead lies a slope up to meet the northern ridge over Creag Bhan. For once it is quite warm as we toil up the north facing steep slope. We eventually reach easier ground where we veer right to follow a line of metal stakes to the 772 metre summit. To the southeast, the climb up to Sgor na h-Ulaidh looks quite a challenge.
After a short break we back tracked and descend to the col at Bealach Easan.

The north face of Sgor na h-Ulaidh and the prospect of a steep ascent ahead. We would ascend diagonally from the middle of the photograph across to the right shoulder which is just in the shade as seen here.

An almost birds eye view down Glen Creran from our lunch stop.

We are now confronted by a steep ascent of more than 400 metres. My research on this ascent indicates to keep well west of crags on the northern face of the mountain. Nick and I set off diagonally up the steepening slope and further up we zigzag our way up the steep grassy slope. At an area where the ground is less steep we stop for our lunch with an almost aerial view down over Glen Creran. For once it is pleasantly warm and there is no need to move off in a hurry.

The view west from the top of Sgor na h-Ulaidh over the spur of Corr na Beinne.

From the top of Sgor na h-Ulaidh, the Corbett of Meall Lighiche 772 metres is well below us.

The route ahead over the satellite summit of Stob an Fhuarain (centre), from where we would skirt left over the lesser summit on the left of the photograph before descending.

Nick enjoys the afternoon sunshine with a view down Glen Etive.

When we do set off, we have a further steep ascent to the western spur of Corr na Beinne. From here, the gradient eases with a much easier ascent to the top of Sgor na h-Ulaidh 994 metres. We sit awhile on top admiring the views. Another couple of people reach the summit whist we are there. They had ascended from the Glen Etive side.
Setting off after a good break we descend northeast before climbing over the satellite summit of Stob an Fhuarain (968 metres). From here we head north over the lesser top of Aonach Dubh a’ Ghlinne. It was now time for the descent and we strike out westwards down a moderate slope. It was relatively easy but the path along the bottom is very uneven and rocky and so progress is slow. We later rejoined our outward route and it proves a very pleasant walk back long the valley in fine afternoon sunshine to reach the car.

The walk back down the valley. A fitting way to complete the day.

Nick’s Viewranger statistics. Distance 9.93 miles. Altitude gain 4332 feet. Average speed 1.18 mph.

Farthest southwest

A panoramic view at Dursey Head. Offshore is The Calf (centre) and The Cow (right).

It’s the last place where the sun sets in the British Isles on December the 31st and it is a land where a few hardy souls eke out a meagre living working the thin soils on this windswept and tree less island. The only fixed connection to the Irish mainland is via a cable car which looks little more than a workman’s hut slung on wires which plies to and fro across the Dursey Sound all year round. Well it sounds like a good place to visit.
I first came here in 1980 with a few friends and ventured out across the island on a rather dull and damp windy day. On that occasion we didn’t see much but here I was again with an opportunity to explore Dursey Island in depth on what I hoped would be a better day.
I’m leaving a very sunny Glengariff on a warm summer’s morning for the drive along the southern side of the picturesque Beara Peninsula. Now, what’s this? Within a few miles of setting off the bright sunshine has been replaced by a soft Irish morning and it’s the first time I’ve had to use windscreen wipers on the car since my arrival in Ireland about two weeks ago. This is not on the weather forecast today!
As I drive through Castletown Berehaven and onwards to the end of the road at Dursey Sound, the cloud has settled well down on the hills and a thick drizzle has set in. Having driven this far I am not likely to be in the area for many years to come so rain or shine I opt to go for it.
One’s first impression of the cable car is a bit overwhelming. A little box hanging on cables high above the Atlantic. At either end are two tall steel structures which have taken on a very rusty look.

Dursey Island Cable Car. Viewed during the afternoon. The morning was too misty for any decent photographs. Is it me, but does the tower look a tad rusty? The cable car can be seen as it passes through one of the towers.

It’s €10 for the return trip on the cable car and even on a dull morning like today there is a small queue. With a maximum capacity of six persons you can work out how long the wait is going to be as the round trip by the cable car across the sound takes fifteen minutes. Now for the downside; Residents on the island take priority on the cable car and can jump the queue and furthermore they are carried free. On the small exposed platform a small group of tourists clad in brightly coloured waterproofs are waiting their turn. At least it is just drizzle but I can imagine you could get jolly wet just waiting for the cable car.
After a forty minute wait which can be passed by chatting with other tourists and listening to their experiences in Ireland we are off. With the cable car just attached to the cables every time someone boards the cabin it sways outward from the platform.
Silently we are moving with a gradual ascent to pass through the first steel tower before our ‘little box’ lurches over the grey waters of Dursey Sound. If you wish, you can look down between the slats in the floor to see the grey waters far below. The cable car is not only used for passengers but you might have to share your little confined place with a few sheep. Inside are pasted details in the event of an emergency including the use of a two way radio or how to use the seventy five foot long rope ladder which allegedly will stretch down to any rescue boat should the worse happen. Alongside is a copy of Psalm 91 which one of the group takes great delight in reading out.

Heading west on the lonely road towards Ballynacallagh.

Safely on the island, it’s time to decide where I am going. My plans is to walk the four and a half miles one way to Dursey Head via the island road and return along the spin of the island, which is another four and a half miles and as the hill cloud is well down I wisely opt to follow the road west. Surprisingly enough there are several cars and four by fours on the island, none of which would pass their MOT as most vehicles are rusty and have wings or bumpers missing to say the least.
I set out on the minor road which crosses the island. I seem to recall that on my visit in 1980 that this was just a mere track. The population of the island hovers around a half dozen. You’ve got to like remoteness if you want to live here as there are no shops or facilities and you can be cut off from the outside world for days on end.

A restored house in Ballynacallagh. I like the way they have done the stonework.

About a half hour walk brings me to the first village of Ballynacallagh which comprises of a few houses clustered together and some quite recently renovated. Here and there are dotted many other properties now only stone shells with roofs fallen in. This reflects on a once much larger population a century ago. There was a castle here once and in 1602 it was a garrison of the O’Sullivan Beare family. About this time the island was attacked by the English murdering all three hundred islanders.
I press on, soon passing through the next village hamlet of Kilmichael. The road continues and gradually climbs along the steep hillside with a steep slope plunging to the Atlantic hundreds of feet below whist above me the hillside disappears into the mist. Someone with a sense of humour has erected some road signs along the next section and I pass a bus stop sign and a sign indicating a speed limit of 100kph. As the road contours around the highest hill I get a view to the western end of the island and the last settlement. It looks so bleak even on a summer’s day with a line of ruinous houses dotted along the south facing slope and one lonely lived in farm at the far end. This place is called Tilickafinnal and is certainly a place to get away from it all. Head in the same direction southwest and your next landfall would be Florida! At least now the weather is showing signs of improving and the cloud is slowly lifting, which I hope will provide a rewarding walk back along the spine of the island.

The road continues west and mist still clings to the higher ground. hopefully it will lift by the afternoon.

I wouldn’t really want to do 100 kph on this road. There is no barrier and the Atlantic is 400 feet below you.

The last village of Tilickafinnal consists mostly of long abandoned houses but there is a lived in farm at the far end. This is what you call getting away from it all.

I pass the last farm and now I am on bare hillside with vegetation growing little more than a couple of inches. It probably blows here most of the time but I am being blessed with a calm day and the sea is quite smooth. Now the area is famed for whale and dolphin watching but knowing my luck I have never seen anything in my lifetime.
There are a few day visitors around most of which have ventured to the point where the land starts to descend towards the last headland. I want to press on to the very end. Out to sea are remote rocks which include such names as The Bull which at 302 feet high is crowned with a lighthouse together with auxiliary buildings and is so far out that it doesn’t appear on the 1;50,000 scale Irish Ordnance Survey Map. As it is, I am on an inset part of the map. Nearer at hand are rocks called The Cow, The Calf and The Heifer.

The path leading down to Dursey Head. No more civilisation until you reach Florida!

This is The Bull, a 302 foot high rock complete with lighthouse and auxiliary buildings. It’s quite amazing how they built all this at such an exposed location. So far out in the Atlantic, its even beyond the inset of the 1;50,000 Irish Ordnance Survey Map!

I am nearing the most south western point in the British Isles when coming the other way I quite unexpectedly bump into a member of the East Cheshire Ramblers. John Kummer, who often joins the group of long walks is out walking the Beara Way, a trail which has an extension onto Dursey Island. It’s quite amazing where you bump into someone you know. After a conversation we go our separate ways. A small roofless structure at Dursey Head provides the only shelter but today it is so still that it is just nice to sit out on the cliff top.

The end of the land at Dursey Head. A series of fang like rocks dominate the end of the island. It is here I sat and watched the dolphins and whales whilst eating lunch.

As I reach the very end of Dursey Island the land falls away as a series of ‘fangs’ where the rock strata have been turned on end. A small group of visitors are excited and tell me that there is a school of dolphins just offshore and sure enough I don’t have to wait long before the school break the water. With it being so still, there are no waves breaking and so the dolphins are easy to spot and can be seen swimming just below the surface. Occasionally they rise out of the water to belly flop sending a cascade of water into the air. If that is not enough excitement we next see whales breaking the surface further out and a couple of times they send up columns of spray from their blowholes.
What better way to sit and have lunch whale and dolphin watching from a cliff top and staring out onto a smooth Atlantic knowing that there is no landfall for many thousands of miles.
Well it’s time to drag myself away and head back and by now the weather is improving. The mist has lifted from the islands’ hills and patches of soft blue sky are edging in from the Atlantic. I backtrack initially before taking a good path with marker posts up to the island highest point at 252 metres. The summit has a trig point, together with a prominent but ruinous signal tower. The tower was built as a chain of lookout towers to warn of possible invasion during the Napoleonic Wars.

A good path follows the spine of the island. This view looks back towards Dursey Head.

The Signal Tower and trig point at the highest point on the island. (252 metres).

What a superb afternoon for this walk along the spine of the island and a good path the whole way. Walking at it’s best!

I press on along the spine of the island keeping over all high ground. It is turning a fine and sunny afternoon and the light is almost magical. At the last hill I can see down to the waiting point for the cable car. It’s going to be a long wait and indeed it is. It’s one hour and ten minutes before it’s my turn to join another five tourists for the return crossing to the Irish Mainland. Thankfully it’s dry but there is nobody who wants to enter into conversation, but I think they are all non English speaking people. So how do you spend an hour and ten minutes waiting for a cable car? Well you can calculate the length of time it takes for a return trip. Count the number of people ahead of you in the queue and work out how long it’s going to be before it’s your turn. Secondly hope that no island residents turn up. Watch sheep eat grass – I’m getting desperate now! But what amazes me is that this cable car is unsupervised. There doesn’t seem to be anyone to stop extra people getting on board. Each time the cable car arrives at the little platform the next group of six board  in an orderly fashion, with the first person opening the door and when there are six aboard the last one closes the door and the cable car moves off. I suppose that if the cable car was overcrowded and came to a halt halfway back, not many people would fancy climbing down a seventy five foot long rope ladder!