A little north of Elton by the roadside at the foot of Anthony Hill are some stone troughs, the Burycliffe Troughs, with water in them fed by a spring reputed never to have run dry. As far as this point my route from Youlgreave this beautiful January day was the same as for 116. From here I went a short way down Cliff Road to where a footpath to the right led delightfully to Dale End. Juist south of here a phone box marks the start of the track down Gratton Dale. I headed down it. It was muddy and got muddier till I gratefully reached the beautiful , lonely spot which is the junction with Long Dale.
I turned right and followed the latter for about a mile to where a path off to the right took a diagonal line up the side of the dale and deposited me on the plateau above it. The fields here were empty in the cold weather but this is clearly cattle country where you can expect their company in warmer seasons. The field path turned into a track and deposited me on Weaddow Lane. I walked up here a bit till another path on the right headed away by a little river and some woodland. More fields then down the hill again to Middleton and up Bradford Dale and so back to Youlgreave.
I drove to the car park at Porth-y-parc. This isn't big and I got the last space - there are skgns around strongly interdicting parking anywhere else hereabouts. I set off up the track north towarsd Parc Lodge Farm. Here the path by-passes the farm buildings on the right before crossing the river and entering a field on its left bank (inhabited today by a solitdary horse) and followingh the river up it then into some woods that lead uphill to join another of the plurality of paths that converge on the top of this pleasant and popular hill. I was soon on the summit which was windy and quite busy. Returning was an easy stroll down the Rholben ridge.
I parked just by the Whistle Inn (the pub near Whistle Hart on the 1:25,000 map). From here you can see a path leading diagonally up the hillside. I followed this, crossing a tarred track at about 470m. Soon enough I came to a small windfarm – just two turbines but no doubt making plenty of power this very windy New Year’s Eve. From here a path leads off left toward the summit which it bypasses to the south. The summit area is very big and flat. Heaven only knew exactly where the precise summit was. There or thereabouts is good enough for me. I came down by descending more or less pathlessly to the north to pick up the tarred track I had passed going up. This would be unpleasant in the summer when the forest of ferns is in its luxuriant. In December when they were all dead it was easy enough.
The free multi-story car park in Ebbw Vale seems an unlikely starting place for a country walk but that is where I started. Immediately outside a sign point across a bridge to Newtown. I followed it over the bridge, past the Baptist church then right then followed the yellow road south. (To the right down here was once the biggest steel works in Europe. It closed in 2002.) Soon the road starts to rise steeply up onto the hill. Just after it passes a couple of houses the map shows a path doubling back diagonally uphill. This path was not signposted but was easy enough to spot. I followed it up to the quarry. Here the way is very clear between some fenced off pasture on the right (home to some horses) and on the left what purports to be Britain’s highest golf course. It is an easy trudge from here to the summit trig point. I came back the same way. It is a rather bleak depressing place. With the potential, given a little tlc, to be a rather attractive hill, Mynydd Carn-y-Defn is, in its upper reaches utterly ruined by the scarring effect of wildly excessive activity by people on dirt bikes. It’s a real shame.
The previous day (qv) I had failed to climb Mynydd Machen from the south because of paths being closed for forestry working. Sop today I thought I would have a go at climbing it from the north. I drove to Cwmfelinfach and followed the little yellow (well, on the map) road that goes south then east. It gets very narrow and there are very few passing places but there wasn’t much traffic. After a couple of miles I came to a cattle grid just after which there was a car park and a sign saying, Road Ahead Closed. So I parked. A track went uphill from here which soon branched. One branch, going SE, had a sign: Forestry working. Path closed. Authorised personnel only. The other, which went east a bit lower down, did not. Someone was coming down it and I checked with him that there was access all the way. Yes, he said. There was. So up I went and indeed there was. It is a pretty easy, pleasant walk. One of those rare walks so straightforward I never once took the map out of my pocket between leaving the car and returning to it. Near the top there is an enormous spoil heap. It is fun to walk along the ridge made by the top of this but getting on and off it is briefly unpleasantly steep. There was a lovely view from the summit trig point down onto the Bristol Channel.
There was plenty of the day left so I drove round to Wattsville and parked in Troed-y-Rhiw Road at the bottom of the hill. I followed a track down hill and then parallel to the road signposted to Hafol Tudor Cottage. The map shows this leading to a right of way footpath up the side of the hill but I never went that way. Instead I soon turned off right down a forestry track. This zigzagged up through the woods encouragingly. After a few zigzags it started to head downhill but just where it did so there was a path, clear if a little overgrown, going off to my right up the hill. This led up through what was left of the forest, got briefly very steep and rather unpleasant going up alongside the highest trees and eventually parked me on the large summit plateau, a rather beautiful sea of long, yellow grass. (Unlike yesterday on Mynydd Twyn-glas, there was no snow here at all.) The top is marked by a boundary stone and is some way south of the 381 spot height shown on the 1:25,000 OS map. It was a little tricky to found with the grass so long but find it I did.
I decided to come down using the right of way path I had spurned on the way up. The top of this is tricky to get to from here as it involves climbing down into a rather steep and pathless gully. I did this, found the path at the edge of the forest and followed it into the trees. I went down it pleasantly enough for about ten minutes until I came to a sign. Forestry working. Path closed. Authorised personnel only. This was not good. Climbing up a hill is a mission one can abort. Climbing down one not so much. It would have been a long a tedious way back up and round from here to find another way down – perhaps where I had come up. I couldn’t see or hear and forestry activity so I carried on swiftly and warily. After a bit I came to a place where there had indeed been some forestry work quite recently and it had obliterated the path. But I found some more zigzagging forestry tracks that soon took me back to the road. No sign of any tree felling in progress. And no corresponding sign at the bottom of the path. There was still a bit of daylight left when I got to my car so I drove east to Wentwood where I made a quick visit to the top of South Wales’ easiest Marilyn. Five minutes out and back from a car park at the top of what was toady a rather snowy bit of road.
Today began badly. I set out to clilmb Mynydd Machen from Machen. I parked by the church. A footpath goes up behind it which I followed uphill for a bit till it crosses a track. Here I met a sign. Forestry working. Footpath closed. Authorised Personnel Only. Oh well. I looked at the map. There looked to be anopther way, Instead of heading straight up I could follow the track round to the right past a place called Bovil and climb the hill a bit further east. So I set off. After about five minutes I came to another sign. Forestry working. Footpath closed. Authorised Personnel Only. I gave up and went to find another hill to climb.
I drove to Upper Cwmbran and parked near a church in a car park where a path heads off up to Blaen Bran Reservoir. In fact there are lots of paths. It was pretty busy – this is evidently where Cwmbran comes to walk its dog. And it was beautifully sunny with snow on the ground up here if not at sea level. I wended my way up past the ruin of Mineslope Mine and past the reservoir where a track led up the steep slopes onto the plateau, a big sunny snowy wilderness with a big line of electricity pylons, leaving the dog walkers behind. Turning right and following these led me eventually to a couple of transmission masts and a track leading right from here led to the summit trig point of Mynydd Twyn-glas. I climbed back down to the reservoir a bit further north on a rather steep rather vague path but was soon down among the dog walkers again.
If, as I was today, you are driving a long road between England and Scotland but fancy breaking the journey for a short walk this can be recommended. Turn off the A1 a little north of Berwick-Upon –Tweed where a signpost signs the way to the gloriously named Conundrum – which is just the farm immediately on your right as you come off the main road. Drive up a hill and round a corner to find a car park with a wonderful view back down over Berwick. There are two tracks going off west one from a bit above the car park, one a bit below. I set off walking on the one below which leads to a trig point just after which there is a track of sorts running roughly north to pick up the higher pf the two tracks which I followed back to the car park. About 3km. It doesn’t take long. The hill is the site of The Battle of Halidon Hill where in 1333 the English inflicted a crushing defeat on the Scots. One you pass the trig point the track borders a huge pig farm so you will see a lot of pigs.
I was in Paris for work and lingering for a little tourism. So today I went for a bit of a city walk. I began in the Rue Mouuffetard, in the Latin Quarter where I was staying, just round the corner from the Pantheon. I walked from here to the river and west along it as far as the Pont du Carrousel which I crossed to reach the Place du Carrousel between the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens with its imposing Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, built at the height of Napoleon’s power and success in 1806-8. For 300 years the Tuileries Palace stood at the west side of the square but it was destroyed by the Communards in 1871. Now there are just the Gardens which I followed west towards the huge ferris wheel, the Roue de Paris, which marks the point where one leaves the Tuileries Gardens and enters the Place the La Concorde with its huge Egyptian Obelisk. Once of course this was the Place de la Revolution and the scene of countless executions, including Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Danton, Robespierre, St Juste and many others.
From here I turned back east along the Rue de Rivoli the rather posh street that bounds the Gardens on the North. You could easily miss the modest little plaque on the railings that says: Sur cet emplacement, avant l'ouverture de la rue de Rivoli, s'elevait la salle du Manege, construite en 1726 pour Louis XV enfant, ou siegerent successivement l'Assemblée constituante du 9 novembre 1789 au 30 septembre 1791, l'Assemblée législative du 1er octobre 1791 au 21 septembre 1792, la Convention nationale du 21 septembre 1792 au 9 mai 1793 et ou fut instituee La Republique le 21 septembre 1792.” Nothing else but a windswept corner of the Tuileries Gardens now marks the scene where so much history was made. Another place that does nothing to advertise its significance is round the corner where the Rue du Marché-Saint-Honoré opens onto Rue Saint-Honoré. I popped round to have a look. This was once where the entrance was to the Couvent des Jacobins, the Dominican monastery where the Jacobin Club had their meetings and whence they took their name. But it is all gone and there is no trace. On one corner a little restarant, on the other a branch of Christian Dior. I kept heading east till I reached the Palais Royale where I turned right and headed back past the Louvre, back over the Seine and down the Rue Bonaparte past the 'École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts. I then turned left into the Rue de l’abbaye. It was here in 2nd September 1792 that the first of the murders that came to be known as the Prison Massacres took place. From here I kept going south until I came to the Palais de Luxembourg, now the seat of the French Senate, all round which a great many armed police were a reminder that France has had her troubles of late: they are clearly taking no chances with security.
I took a look at the Luxembourg Gardens then made for the Place de l’Odeon and up the Rue de l’Odeon past Thomas Paine’s old house. Coming to the Boulavard St-Germain I made a trip down the Rue de lecole de medicine. Apparently Marat used to live at – and was murdered at - no. 20 but no. 20 is no more eaten up by the Universite Paris Descerates. It was lunchtime now so I stopped at the Breizh Café at the Carrefour de l’Odeon for a little crepe before carrying on my way. I headed west now towards the rue de La Huchette and Rue Galande where what were once places of torture and death are now trendy pubs and jazz venues, the Trois Mailletz, the Caveau de la Huchette and the tellingly named Caveau des Oubliettes. Then over the bridge onto the Ile de la Cite where I was overtaken by torrential rain and took refuge from it by stopping for a coffee and another crepe (sweet this time) in a café opposite the Conciergerie. Then over the bridge on the other side to pass the front of the Hotel de Ville and on through no longer torrential but decidedly wet rain through the Marais to the Place de la Bastille where a sharp right down the Boulvard Henri IV pointed me in the direction of home.
With Katarina. We started at Little Bullocks b&b at Hope End Green as I had been staying there. If you're not a customer public parking is not so abundant but this walk can easily be started at Hatfield Broad Oak or Takely. From LIttle Bullocks a track - Oak Lane - heads across something called Cow Common. With these names you would expect therev to be a lot of beasts here but it ius mostly arable land and we met no livestock till after Hatfield Broad Oak. Very easy walking on sometimes slightly muddy paths took us there past Hellman's Cross, Aldbury's Farm, Taverner's Green. From here we followed the Three Forests Way downhill to a footbridge and then north up Pincey Brook, passing some very placid cattle, and on as far as Bridgefoot Farm. Here we took a left and follwoed a footpath over the fields and to the right of some houses to find a road and after going down it a bit a gate into Hatfield Forest. This would have been nice to explore more thoroughly but it was getting late and coming on to rain so we heeded fairly briskly north to reach the Flitch Way. Easily east along this as the light faded for about 3km till a footpath over fields past Runnel's Hey wood took us back to Little Bullocks.
I drove to Buttermere from Keswick over the Honister Pass. Just after the top I passed a man on a bicycle coming up the other side, looking utterly spent and worn out. Come on, old friend, you’re nearly there, I thought, and in a few more turns of his pedals so he would be. I parked at Gatesgarth (Pay and display - remember to bring cash, it's a long way to the nearest cashpoint) and put my boots on. A very tiny friendly black dog came out to inspect me. I took the path past the farm, over the fields and up towards Scarth Gap that separates High Crag from Haystack. Getting high up on this path with High Stile as objective you start to envy the people heading for Haystacks. They are nearly there, you aren’t. Both Wainwright and the Nuttalls advise leaving the main path a bit before the gap and following a wall that goes off top the right. So I did. After a bit it turns right and after a bit more another wall (in a very poor state) branches off to the left. Following the latter leads steeply and roughly to the gap between Seat and High Crag. I wasn’t in great shape today - after a criminally sedentary October - and from here it still seemed a good stiff climb to the top. The last few yards were very hard work as I was utterly spent and worn out. I remembered the Honister cyclist. Catching my breath on the summit I soon accepted it had been worth the pain. Conditions were utterly perfect. Cold, to be sure but very calm and sunny with blue skies all round. On I went over High Stile towards Red Pike. I could see everything - Ennerdale Water, Crummock Water, Grasmoor, Skiddaw, Blencathra. Helvellyn, Pendle Hill, Great Gable, Scafell Pike, Scafell, Pilllar, the Atlantic Ocean, the Isle of Man and quite a lot of SW Scotland. All glistening in the early winter sun, the highest peaks, including my own, lightly dusted with snow.
Approaching Red Pike the path down towards Dodd from its summit looked alarmingly steep and precarious. And indeed, on close acquaintance it was pretty unpleasant, very steep eroded scree but the worst bit was close to the top and short-lived. Halfway to the col I took a couple of minutes' break to chat to a friendly young couple heading up. Dodd was a very little thing, a tiny irregularity in the northern slopes of Red Pike, one of those Nuttalls that are not Wainwrights. But the top is a lovely spot. And so down to Bleaberry Tarn and on down all the way back to Buttermere. This latter descent I had been led to expect from the Nuttals would be tedious and interminable. It was indeed tedious and interminable. Finally getting back to the lakeside path, there wasn’t much light left so I didn’t hang about. When I was almost back at Peggy’s Bridge I met the same friendly young couple as before. They told me they had had to make some haste racing the failing light down the slopes of High Crag. They had done the same walk I had but anticlockwise and in roughly 50% of the time it had taken me! Slow as I had been I was pretty tired and grateful to get back to my car and drove over the pass to the Scafell Hotel for some Hunter’s chicken and sticky toffee pudding. It had been a great day. The High Stile hills are well defended by long steep slopes making for a tough slog up and a pretty tough slog down but the ridge walk along the top is hevenly and worth the pain.