For newcomers

At the bottom of each post there is the word "comments". If you click on it you will see comments made by followers, and if you follow the instructions you may also comment and I always welcome that. I have found many people overlook this part of the blog which is often more interesting than the original post!

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Thursday, 24 September 2015

Boston to Barmouth -celebration meal?

Eating in the Min-y-Mor

I was booked in here by the TI Office. It is a family seaside hotel on the front and out of town with glorious views across the sea to Abersoch.

The room is to a good standard including a full bath bathroom.

I have descended to eat.

There are three location options. The bar - seems full of noisy, shell suit family holidaymakers, the restaurant - a huge room, cold, that could sit fifty or sixty with not a single table occupied, and as I am shown round the options, the Bistro, "where there's perhaps more atmosphere" I am informed, well the emphasis should be on the word "perhaps". Four of eight tables are occupied, all by elderly couples rarely speaking to each other, and then only in subdued, almost whispers. There was more life in Tutankhamen's tomb.

I sit down and feel stifled. I want to jump up and shout " Geronimo" very loudly, then trundle the Calf rock off down into Ilkley. I think my ordering of a second pint of draught beer convinces all that I am alcoholic.

Salt and pepper is obtained from battery powered mills which make a chainsaw-like noise, but produce little result, so if you want a decent amount you risk embarrassment for the lengthy noise as every body watches. The waitress tries to liven things up by switching on some fairy light window lights. - gasps of amazement from everybody; but the people near that window object and the lights are switched off. At last a bit of spirit from somebody. For the first time ever I am crying out for Muzak.

Gayle - Slate table mats. Perhaps they are ex-platters that people objected to ?

Sent from my iPad


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Boston to Barmouth - day 18 (last day)

Thursday 24th September - Bala to Barmouth

The whole of today's walk was on the old railway line Mawddach Trail named after the river which flows out at Barmouth. For the first quarter of a mile I was with the school kids until they turned off - felt a bit incongruous, the geriatric walker at the end of 280 miles amongst these youngsters. Some were chatting in Welsh and others in English. One young couple were holding hands and obviously attached - gosh, I never got that far before leaving school.

This is a fine cycle route but I only saw two or three bikes over the whole distance. Views down the estuary were magnificent with blue sky and a fresh wind. A perfect end to the walk finishing over the railway bridge surrounded by hills and sea.

I am overnighting in Barmouth then off to visit my brother (RR) and his wife in Hereford.

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I have enjoyed this Macmillan walk more than the Abbotsbury one earlier this year. It seemed to be more connected with the real England I think of, and also had the wonderful climax of crossing Wales.

I have been extraordinarily lucky with the weather. In the earlier flatlands there was quite a lot of crop field walking, and also ploughed fields which would be a nightmare in the wet. Later, paths became more genuine ancient inter-village connections and old lanes. There has been a huge amount of Tarmac which I don't mind, most of it on almost deserted country lanes. The hills in Wales are no problem to me, that is a large part of what makes it attractive,
and I found myself summiting them more easily as I became more tuned in.

I kept a stile count up to 102 then lost count. I reckon the total would have been around 135.

One great big thank you to Mick and Gayle who gave me four nights accommodation and chauffeured me backwards and forwards and into Wolverhampton to buy new shoes amongst their many other kindnesses and generosity - true friends.




The tree lined Mawddach Trail opened out into glorious estuary-scape later


Crossing the river not far from Dolgellau the trail crossed back again later


First sight of the Barmouth bridge, well I could see it but the camera is struggling


Crossing the Barmouth bridge (rail and foot only - cars have to drive a heck of a way round).



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Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Boston to Barmouth - day 18

Wednesday 23rd September - Bala to Dolgellau

There was no logistically suitable accommodation between Bala and Dolgellau and following the exact Macmillan route involved 22 miles plus.
I reckoned I could shave that by walking on the road from Bala to Llanuwchllyn then continuing with the proper route.

"Red sky in the morning - shepherd's warning", so I was off to a rosy start at 6:50 am. I had arranged to help myself to juice, cereal etc. in lieu of the full English/Welsh Breakfast.

The road went ok and then I was onto tracks, and not so good paths, and the shepherd delivered with rain about 11:00 am, which continued for the rest of the day.

Eventually I was onto better surfaces and emerged from the wilds into Dolgellau a bit wet and bedraggled. It was 4:50 pm - ten hours of pretty concentrated walking. I had pre-booked at the Royal Sailor. Bad news, "your room is on the third floor", good news, " there is a lift".

I seem to be able to walk forever, but going up and down stairs is becoming almost problematic. I am sat here in the Royal Ship (that's three Royals in a row... In Wales) with my supposedly good leg outstretched putting passing waitresses in peril ( or peryl as they say hereabouts).

I have done a quick route measurement on Memory Map which suggests I have walked about 19.5 miles.

Gayle - you will be amused to hear that my room key is attached to a huge slab of slate. If I go out into the town I would need a wheelbarrow to carry it.

Looks like I've about ten miles to do tomorrow to the finish - I'm giving the knees a pep talk.




White Lion ROYAL Hotel, Bala. Early morning light


Lake Bala, early morning.


A bit later on


I' m all for progress but how can you improve on this Victorian post box?


Cader Idris ?



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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Boston to Barmouth - day 17

Lake Vyrnwy to Bala Tuesday 22nd September

Last night The "oggie" turned out to be a glorified Cornish pasty and I have to say it was delicious, but it was unimaginatively served on a token bed of mashed potato and nothing else. What a disappointment, especially considering the £11.50 price, for what could have been a good meal with a little more thought. I was still hungry. Normally I would go for a dessert but ended up ordering the paté from the starter menu. Now this arrived with a small Kilner jar containing a massive amount pâté and salad leaves, and four slices of toast and maybe something I have forgotten . It was good. The point is that this starter was much more of a main course than the Oggie. The place I was eating in was a good class bar offshoot of a very expensive spa hotel - the sort of people who should know what they are doing.

'Twas rain all day, on and off, never heavy. I pounded the six miles from the lake dam to its other end in 1hr. 40mins. There was nothing to see, it was tree lined on both sides
.
Four kilometres of mostly steep ascent followed to get to the watershed and the descent down the Hirnant pass. I felt fit and walked more or less non stop all day. From Lake V onwards the scenery just got better and better.

It is supposed to be fifteen miles from Lake V dam to Bala - not sure what my exact distance was ending up at the White Lion in the Main Street, but I took exactly six hours so that was a minimum 2.5 mph - not bad for an old codger.

Looks like I'm going to finish early on this walk on Thursday.




1881 to 1888. They knew how to build in those days. I love this architecture


On the way up to the Hirnant valley down the other side


All Tarmac but who cares with this kind of scenery


Now then you tractor buffs. What about this one?


Bala.



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Monday, 21 September 2015

Boston to Barmouth - day 16

Monday 21st September - Pontrobert to Llanwddyn (Lake Vyrnwy)

The first proper rain showed itself this morning but somehow I didn't care. I've got some good gear and the rain was only light, but it did last until around midday. The scenery and ambience were attractive and colours seemed to be brightened by the rain. In This part of Wales it is like walking through a giant inverted verdant egg box as one climbs out of one secret valley, and then drops down into another. It is all delight.

Cows followed me at one stage for about quarter of a mile on a track, then I heard a car coming - the cows at last veered off into the field. The car stopped. I assumed it must be the farmer, "are they your cows?" I enquired, "Yes, CATTLE" he corrected me. I had noticed they didn't have certain female attributes. He was a decent type looking very comfortable in the car contrasting with my drizzle outside, but I was happy enough.

My route was following the river Vyrnwy with alternating woodland and sheep cropped pasture, walking perfection

Dolanog is a small village and I hardly expected a village shop with a coffee machine. I was correct. I sat on the village bench and took a breather. A couple came up the road with two dogs, one enormous and the other tiny. We chatted and I joked about the non-existent shop, "you can come back to our house for a coffee if you like". So I spent a pleasant half hour chatting about their time spent in Bulgaria. They had brought the small dog back from there found as a stray. I hope you are keeping a tally Gayle - I'm expecting some sort of a graph or chart.

I continued to follow the river which emanates from Lake Vyrnwy. My B&B was situated just below the dam wall. Ian (his proper name is the Welsh version, not sure how to spell) rears Lleyn sheep, a special breed and is off to auction on Saturday with two rams to sell for breeding, but the association rules say that he must also have ten ewes which he had recently until some workmen left a gate open and two escaped. He is now wondering if he can gain some kind of dispensation - I hope he does. The Gorffwysfa B&B is very welcoming, tea and cake when I arrived and then a lift to the pub which is fifteen minutes walk away where I am now awaiting something called Welsh Oggie. I will report on that next time if I remember.




"Who could wish for anything more"


Dolanog where I was invited for coffee. I was sat on the bench in the recess, end of first building on left


The big dog of the two of the couple who invited me for coffee ( thanks).


More pleasant riverside walking - perfect surface



First view of Lake Vyrnwy


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Sunday, 20 September 2015

Boston to Barmouth - day 15

Sunday 20th September - Welshpool to Pontrobert


Today's walk was only about ten miles. Daily mileage is dictated by available accommodation on the route. But, I am finding that ten miles is comfortable, and enough in this Welsh hilly countryside. The hummocky scenery makes for steep ups and downs and views are ever changing - it is wonderful walking country. Others may complain at the uphill stuff, but this is what we come to Wales for, isn't it?

Apparently I missed a Marilyn summit yesterday by 100m. I have to admit to that being a bit of a blow.

By coincidence my stay tonight is also in The Royal Oak. Until a few years ago this was a thriving pub providing many meal covers per night through the week until the landlady's partner became terminally I'll and she nursed him and let the business decline. Now she is going out to work at 6:00 am as a carer for the sick and returning at 3:00pm to run the pub, mainly for a handful of local farmers, and often not retiring until after midnight. I was given an excellent chicken dinner and sat chatting with Joyce in front of a big log fire in what is more of a sitting room than a pub. The logs are provided by locals and others seem to be helping to keep this invaluable enterprise going. I have been given a tray of breakfast items including two eggs to boil - there is a kitchen attached to my sleeping quarters. THIS IS THE KIND OF EXPERIENCE AND DISCOVERY THAT PROVIDES A LARGE PART OF THE FULFILMENT FOR ME ON THESE TRIPS. I made some cynical comments on the previous post about my anticipation of this overnight based on the room which is pretty basic, but that has been reflected in the modest price I have just paid. For me this has been the best stop on the trip so far.




Sunday morning Welshpool











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Saturday, 19 September 2015

Boston to Barmouth - day 14

Saturday 19th September - Brockton to Welshpool

Yesterday took a lot out of me. The terrain was more hilly and a lot of time consuming navigation was required ending up with a later arrival than anticipated at the beginning of the day. It was also very hot, and the final frustration in the heat was mentally and physically tiring, but something always turns up, and of course there is always the tent...

This morning I had a "continental" breakfast to beat their 8:30 standard breakfast time. The girl who sorted my bill was unaware of my tale of woe from last night and she took pity by offering to drive me the one and a half miles back to "1 out of 4 Brockton". I had worked out a contingency plan and was glad I didn't have to use it.

From Brockton it was an unrelenting four kilometre climb on a narrow hardly used cul-de-sac Tarmac lane gaining 215m. I took that so steady: one hour and twenty minutes. The continuation as a field path still kept climbing.

After that there was tricky navigation and one gate fixed with twisted barbed wire which I dextrously unentangled. At some point I hooked up with Offa's Dyke path and then descended very steeply to Welshpool. Well, at least I have made it to Wales.

The Royal Oak Hotel, Weslshpool is the best of British traditional hotel stock, charging appropriately. A bit of negotiating got the initial quote for B&B down by £29, I'm not saying what the actual price was.

I've just had an avocado and prawn "tian". It was a superb creation. I asked the head honcho what tian meant. "Well, it means layered. A Chef's word" he brushed off in jocular fashion. The creation was superb, and for that the chef is entitled to call it what he wants. Gayle may have been dismayed, it was served on a piece of slate.

Now I've just finished his steak and ale pie. It came with chips prepared with skill, and an individual pie, not in a dish, so no nonsense deciding how to extricate it all, and with a perfect totally enclosed shortcut pastry, and balanced taste. Also a little boat of proper gravy to dip the chips in if you want, and a little accompaniment of water cress. This is a thinking chef.

Now for Bara Brith: I discovered this Welsh version of fruit cake on my Welsh boundary walk. I feel a bit guilty at tonight's extravagance, but have just decided that it is my mandatory celebration of my return to Wales.

I'm signing off now.















Welshpool



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Friday, 18 September 2015

Boston to Barmouth - day 13

Friday 18th September - Church Stretton to Brockton?

A great start and a disastrous finish. Last night I booked in by email at the Old Quarry Guest House, Brockton and had a pleasant exchange of emails with Tricia about evening meal etc, and I was looking forward to the morrow.

I was late off, 9:00 am, but a glorious sunny morning lead me into the Shropshire hills. What a treat. The whole trip would have been worthwhile for my first experience of this terrain. It is like a mini Lake District with more heather and gorse with good walking on established tracks. The route took me up Carding Mill Valley and over Long Mynd then all height lost again to be regained by the ascent of Stiperstones which has Marilym status. The summit is a tor of excellent (for climbing) quartzite and I had a good old scramble to get me up to the trig point. The summit ridge path is made of solid-set jagged stones the size of rugby balls all the way and is pretty hard going, not a place to have a tumble. At the end of the ridge I was caught in a heavy shower, wets on etc. for a while.

From there onwards the quality of walking deteriorated and I found myself lost in a barbed wire defended field trekking UP and DOWN looking for an exit, and I was running out of time to arrive at my B and B at a sensible time. I took a shorter road alternative for the last 2.5 miles and eventually arrived at the Cock Inn, Brockton and enquired the whereabouts of Old Quarry Guest House. Nobody had heard of it. I marched up the road, hot and bothered then realised I had the mobile number, but then I had no signal on Vodafone or Orange. I returned to the pub and a joint effort established that Quarry House was located at Brockton, Much Wenlock from where I walked yesterday to Church Stretton. Locals in the pub telephoned the Lowfield Inn a couple of miles up the road and secured a room and one of them drove me up there. I did establish contact with Tricia to apologise etc. and that will be sorted. It turns out there are four Brocktons in Shropshire!

I have just had a not very satisfactory meal of fish cakes - sloppy, not warm enough, boring, and on a huge bed of raw samphire which lacerated my throat lining as I tried to swallow it. I took the trouble to locate at the far end of the dining area, and now wondering weather to risk a pud or not a group of unknown music style is setting itself up to perform two yards from my table. I'm moving again.




Carding a ill Valley


Nearing the top


Stiperstones


Rough going


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Thursday, 17 September 2015

Boston to Barmouth - day 12

Thursday 17th September

Much Wenlock to Church Stretton

Last night I was in The Pottery B and B at Much Wenlock. They run a serious well established pottery and if such is of interest it would be worth a visit.

Walking today has been uneventful, enjoyable, varied, and much more hilly. Sections of Wenlock Edge lived up to my memories of my LEJOG: horsey-churned up, muddy deep.

I am installed in The Buck's Head at Curch Stretton. I arrived to eat in the bar and selected a table then ordered a pint and retired to look at the menu, and realised I was within inches of the Muzak speaker, so upped and moved. A third of the way through my main course I was disturbed by sudden sound. A guy at the bar had switched on the large-screen telly directly above my head issuing the demonic sound of over excited football commentators. The switcher at the bar turned to drink his pint and ignored the noisy hype. I moved again.

Further round the bar, and now, thankfully further away from me since I moved for the sevond time there are a group of males and a woman who I have deduced is a dental nurse. They are becoming more and more influenced by drink - her laughter and stupid giggling are rising in crescendo and she may either fall backwards on the floor or be carried out soon - hopefully.




I couldn't resist buying a pie for later - early morning, Much Wenlock


View from Wenlock Edge


I think this farmer's great-grandfather was Houdini


A modest but smart looking little tractor. I've no idea of its pedigree - Alan to the rescue please


The Buck's Head, Church Stretton



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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Boston to Barmouth - day 11

Beckbury to Much Wenlock - Wednesday 16th September

Last night and this morning I breakfasted in M and G's motor caravan. It is so comfortable and the conversation so convivial I could have stayed much longer, but there was a job to be done.

Severe rain had been forecast but I saw none all day. Pleasant walking had me between Coalport and Ironbridge for lunch where I found a bench to munch cheese sandwiches enhanced with Gayle's chutney followed by her tea bread - I really have been spoilt.

At Ironbridge I crossed paths with my 2008 LEJOG and more recently my Severn Way. It is difficult to devise a route that does not coincide with previous ones. There is one of those English gems in Ironbridge, and taking the slogan from another it is a "celebrated pork pie establishment". Despite being recently victualled I had to succumb which meant crossing the bridge when my route did not.

After that I missed some turning and found myself on an ever diminishing, perilous riverside path perched above the river. I knew there must be a proper path higher up and I had a desperate time scrambling up a steep banking, but I'm still here.

Next I followed an ambiguous Cross Britain Way sign pointing up wooden steps. I must have climbed five hundred of these right to the crest above the Ironbridge gorge only to find I had been misdirected, so it was back down again - all good fitness training; mmm!.

Why oh why didn't I take photos of the banking scramble and the steps?




Massive valley side reconstruction contra floods above the R. Severn between Coalport and Ironbridge


Long may Eley's continue


I think that will be three photos I have in my collection of this famous bridge






Looking down to Ironbridge from the top of the steps



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Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Boston to Barmouth - day 10

Crateford ro Beckbury

Yesterday's post was a disaster. Too tired. Too late.

Today has been the best so far - perfect weather after initial drizzle. A coffee shop at the right time in Brewood (Brood) with coffee to die for, items of interest occurring at regular intervals, and the knowledge that I can be picked up again at any point I decide to stop. Yes, Mick and Gayle have a offered me another night and related chauffeuring so I am now awaiting pick up at my destination.

A big advantage of the last few days: the ability to "flatpack". That is a word M and G picked up on their Pacific Trail meaning that you can just carry day items in your rucksack because you will be returning to your start point at the end of the day. I love the American language - they also talk about "doing a zero" ( rest day), a Nero (short day), and a Flip Flop (getting dropped off at the far point and walking back).

My famous Mountain Warehouse trail shoes have now done about 300 miles and they are wearing down to the innards of the welt at the heel - don't know if they will last - could have bought some Hi-Tec fabric waterproof boots in Albrighton for £50 but thought better - yes, they have a shoe shop there!

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After being picked up M and G drove me to Go Outdoors in Wolverhampton where I bought new shoes, and we then went off to dine.

Earlier in the day I was a bit frustrated about my number of faffs so put off investigating an itchy scalp for a while. When I removed my hat I found an earwig crawling around inside. After shaking him out I pondered on his journey - it was probably like being kidnapped in the UK by plane and parachuted out over South America.

A bit further on I was passing a cottage on a quiet country lane and chatted to The lady in the garden. Yes, Mick and Gayle, I was invited in for coffee and a very pleasant chat. Thanks Margaret - it was great to meet and hear about your positive attitude.







How many breakfasts could a B and B get from this mushroom?


This is what horsey people make horses do. There was about half a mile of intermittent quagmires like this. I don't know much about horses but I imagine they don't enjoy this sort of thing



How do you like your Virginia Creeper?




This is apparently top of the class in tractors. I spoke to the driver. It is self steering as well as having other computerised attributes - £1000,000 plus

STILE COUNT - I lost count yesterday - not sure if it's 98 or 102





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Monday, 14 September 2015

Boston to Barmouth - day 8

Sunday 13th. September - Barton- under-Needwood to near Rugely.
And Monday 14th September - near Rugeley to Crateford.

I am typing this after a meal in a pub near Wolverhampton with Mick and Gayle. It is now Monday and I am one post behind. M and G have been generous and helpful in so many ways. We had another splendid meal last night after I had been picked up and whisked back for a second night, and Gayle helped me with the editing of some written stuff for my daughter, High Horse. You want to see G typing.

On Sunday Gayle escorted me for the first two miles on a glorious sunny morning. Later I saw the huge old building of Hoar House which is now a spa - there must have been a couple of hundred cars on the car park. I stopped at the pub in Abbots Bromley for orange and lemonade.

Today M and G had to attend to a property not far from my finish, and where they are staying over with motorhome Colin. I was offered a pick up and sleepover at the property and the same tomorrow. I can't thank them enough.

Today's walk took me over Cannock Chase and all was full of charm with the blooming heather despite gloomy, drizzly conditions.

These two posts are brief due to lack of time. There are photos which I will do later. Now I must sleep.

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Saturday, 12 September 2015

Boston to Barmouth - day 7

Saturday 13th September - Ashby de la Zouch to Barton under Needwood

I am tucked up in a comfortable bed at my destination after being met by Mick and Gayle* at around my halfway point at Overseal. Mick returned to make the fish pie and Gayle was her usual excellent company for the rest of my day.

The Royal Hotel last night was the best of British.

At one point beyond Ashby the gpx route on my iPad was unaware of a new housing estate leading to some confusion.

After that I found myself walking through parts of the underpublicised National Forest on pleasant wide grass rides. I do remember Gayle posting about this enterprise a while ago but have not come across other references to it. Pockets of land have been planted with trees over a very large area since 1995

From their website:

"The National Forest is one of Britain's boldest environmental projects, creating a Forest for the nation across 200 square miles, embracing parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire."

Walking with Gayle involved endless conversation covering a wide range. I hope I didn't repeat too many of my anecdotes. Back at their house Mick's fish pie was everything a hungry randonneur could wish for - I think he is practising for the next round of Masterchef; that was followed by Gayle's delicious blackberry and apple crumble. They have now kindly offered to pick me up at the end of tomorrow's walk and bring me back for a second overnight and to drop me off again next morning.

Conversation tends to reduce photo takes but here are a few.




The grand staircase at The Royal Hotel, Ashby


Ashby Canal


In the National Forest. The tree is covered with vibrant red berries but not so apparent in the photo


We wondered what the backstory was to this abandonment in the middle of nowhere


Crossing the River Trent



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