Holiday 15 - Our Week in North Yorkshire
Flat Scars on the Cleveland Way between Ravenscar and Robin Hoods Bay.
In June 2019 we spent a week in North Yorkshire, staying in a large, self-catering house near Malton. We did a number of quite different walks in and around the North Yorkshire Moors.
Goathland Station on the North Yorkshire Moors historic railway.
The first full-days' walk was from Ravenscars to Robin Hood's Bay, following the Cleveland Way. The route first followed the coast along cliff-top paths and then took us down to the shore, where we walked along the sea's edge to Robin Hood's Bay.
A steam train on the preserved NYMR line.
After exploring this seaside town, and stopping for an icecream, we returned to Ravenscar by a route further inland on a dismantled railway. There was a tea shop at the end of the walk, which made a most welcome stop.
A heard of deer at Fair Head, near Grosmont.
The second walk was from Goathland, known to Heartbeat viewers as Aidensfield. Walking through the village, we crossed the preserved track of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway at Goathland station. We followed footpaths through moorland and farmland to Grosmont.
Grosmont station on the preserved NYMR line.
We stopped for lunch at the beautifully preserved Grosmont railway station followed by a guided tour of the railway workshops. Our route back took various footpaths, mostly through woodland, which included a small diversion to see Mallyan Spout waterfall. This had been recommended to the walk leaders, however the recent dry weather had left it rather unspectacular.
Stopping for a sit-down at the Skelton Tower.
The walk ended back at Goathland, where some of us stopped at a tea shop while others explored the village.
The next walk was around the Hole of Horcum, a large natural bowl in the landscape in Levisham Moor. We started walking around the rim of the bowl before branching off into the moor.
Emerging from the Hole of Horcum.
We descended to the remains of the Skelton lookout tower - yes, descended to the tower - which overlooked a valley in which the North Yorkshire Moors Railway travelled alongside Pickering Beck. Stopping at the remains, we had our packed lunches and watched the Pickering to Whitby train steam through the valley.
Earthwork sculpture in Bradeham Dale, near Fridaythorpe.
The return leg took us into the bowl of the Hole of Horcum.
The last walk was from Fridaythorpe and explored the dry valleys known as dales or slacks. These flat-bottomed valleys must once have been rivers but the river beds are now grass covered and used for grasing sheep.
We crossed farmland from Fridaythorpe into the dales, stopping to see two farmers herding sheep through West Dale. Walking through Brubber Dale into Thixen Dale, we admired a strange earthwork sculpture in Bradeham Dale.
After emerging from Wayrham Dale, we stopped for lunch at a nearby picnic area and returned to Fridaythorpe through farmland.
Holiday 9 - Our Weekend in Pembrokeshire
A view of our hotel at Gwbert.
In September 2016 we joined Ramblers Holidays for a long weekend in Pembrokeshire. This was an organised holiday, with hotel accommodation, transport to and from the walks and a trained walk leader.
A large wicker badger at the Welsh Wildlife Centre.
Holiday 7 - Our Weekend in Bath
At the end of February 2015 we joined forces with the Berkshire Walkers 20s & 30s group for a weekend in Bath. Not entirely a walking weekend, we started with a visit to the Thermae Bath Spa followed by a pub crawl of Bath. On Sunday we did a walk - the Bath Skyline.
Sunday 1st March - Bath Skyline Walk, 8 miles, quite hilly
A view of Bath from the Bath Skyline near Bathwick Hill.
We met up in the centre of Bath for a prompt 10:30am start. It had to be prompt as the Bath Half Marathon was starting at 11am and we needed to cross the running route on our way out of the city.
After weaving our way past metal barriers and marshals in high-vis jackets, we began to head up Bathwick Hill. Half way up this steep road, we turned off into a field and joined the Bath Skyline walk, which continued upward through fields and provided commanding views.
Following the Bath Skyline route through woodland on Claverton Down.
As the route approached Widcombe, we were greeted by a National Trust representative standing outside his hut. We chatted about the route of the Bath Skyline walk, and about the Bath Half Marathon, which had started by now.
While we were chatting, Christine (who wasn't with us at the start of the walk) suddenly appeared, marching up the hill. Her train had been delayed and she'd missed the start of the walk but had now caught us up.
A brief spell of road walking was followed by a steep path up onto Claverton Down, 150m (490ft) above our start point.
Stopping to rest our legs for a moment in Bathampton Woods.
The route was now much flatter and took us past Priory Park College, where one of our group had been to school. Small world! Continuing to circle Claverton Down, we passed around the far side of the University, stopping on a grassy bank by some playing fields to have our picnic lunch.
Moving from Caverton Down to Bathampton Down, the route passed between a golf course and Bathampton Wood, coming close to the main TV transmitter mast serving Bath and North-East Somerset. Then we entered the wood and began our descent. After a steep and slippery slope, the path levelled out before leaving the wood and providing a splendid view of Bath.
Taking a look at Sham Castle, an 18th Century folly overlooking Bath.
Before continuing the descent into Bath, we took a slight diversion to look at Sham Castle. This grade-2 listed folly overlooking the city is no more that a single wall with an arched doorway and turrets. After inspecting it from both sides (the back is less impressive) we continued on the Skyline route down another steep path towards Bath.
The last part of the route was mostly along roads back into the centre of Bath. See our route on Bing Maps. On our way we saw the last few runners nearing the end of their 13 mile route.
Holiday 6 - Our Week Away in Cornwall
Our self-catering house on the cliff-tops in Port Isaac.
In October 2014 several of us spent a week walking in and around Port Isaac in Cornwall. Nine of us stayed in a large self-catering house, with a sea view, while four others stayed in local Bed and Breakfast accommodation.
Arriving on Saturday 25th October, we dropped our luggage at the house before going for a little exploration of the immediate surroundings. We walked down to Port Gaverne and up onto the headland of Castle Rock, where we could see our house on the top of the cliff. Then we walked along the coastal path into Port Isaac for a look around.
We planned to eat out on three nights and to cook and eat in on four nights. On Saturday night we ate out at the Golden Lion in Port Isaac - except for one of us, who stayed in to wait for a very late Tesco food delivery!
Sunday 26th October - Daymer Bay, Polzeath and The Rumps, 10 miles, rugged!
Following the South-West Coastal Path past Hayle Bay, Polzeath.
After breakfast on Sunday morning, we made our packed lunches, drove a few miles down to Daymer Bay and parked up by a beach that was sparsely populated with a few dog-walkers and the occasional surfer.
Joining the South West Coast Path we headed northward over a rocky beach to Hayle Bay. This large, sandy cove was littered with surfers and boards. Skirting the cove, we continued along the coastal path north-west to Pentire Point and then north-east to The Rumps, where we stopped for our picnic lunch.
One of the two Rumps on the northern tip of Polzeath.
After lunch we continued along the coastal path heading south-east, past many rocky coves, until we reached Lundy Hole. Here we left the coastal path and headed inland, uphill and through farmland to Porteath. We emerged onto the main road by the Porteath Bee Centre. We didn't pop in.
From there we followed a quiet lane through more farmland before joining a footpath that took us west through a golf-course and eventually down to Saint Enodoc's Church, half hidden in the dunes.
Leaving the coastal path and heading inland after reaching Lundy Hole.
The church was built in the 12th century but became buried in sand during the 18th only to be dug out and restored in the 19th century. There was a service going on in the church so we didn't go in, but instead continued on the last stretch of our walk back to Daymer Bay and the car park. See our route on Bing Maps.
Sunday night, we ate at our house, inviting those of us staying in the B&Bs to join us. I made Toad in the Hole, Sue made a fish pie, and Julia made a fruit crumble for pudding. Many of the others helped out in the kitchen during the preparation and with clearing up after the meal. The food went down well, as did the wine, and we all slept soundly after the day's exercise.
Monday 27th October - Padstow to Trevone, Coastal Path, 8½ miles plus a ferry ride!
A view of Daymer Bay from the coastal path north of Padstow.
On Monday morning we drove down to Rock, where we parked and took the passenger ferry to Padstow. It's a very long route to drive to Padstow, so the ferry saved us a lot of travel time as well as adding a bit of variety to today's walking.
We set off from Padstow harbour, heading north on the South-West Coast Path. From this path we had many views of the sandy banks of the River Camel and could easily see Daymer Bay, where we had started our previous day's walk.
There were plenty of people on the beaches enjoying a particularly mild, if not very sunny, Autumn half-term holiday.
That's us following the rather rugged coastal path over Gunver Head.
We stopped at the most northerly point of our route for our picnic lunch. Our high vantage point gave us views of Daymer Bay, Polzeath and Hayle Bay. These views disappeared as we rounded Stepper Point and headed south-west with the Atlantic Ocean on our right.
With a distinctly rugged character to this part of the coastal path, we were forever ascending and descending, but always rewarded by the views. Passing places with such names as Pepper Hole, Butter Hole, Fox Hole, Gunver Head and Middle Merope Island, it left me wondering how these names were chosen. (Having said that, how are any place names in the UK chosen?)
A view across the harbour at Padstow after our walk.
After passing Round Hole, we came to the village of Trevone, where some of us stopped for a toilet break. We then headed east across countryside and farmland, via the tiny hamlet of Trethillick, back to Padstow.
Here some of us stopped at a Tea Shop for Cornish cream teas while the rest of us sought other refreshments. With time to spare before the ferry back to Rock, we explored Padstow. See our route on Bing Maps.
Back at the house, Ann made a chilli con carne, Kathy made a rice pudding and there was still some fish pie left over from yesterday. A few of us went off to a local pub quiz after supper. We came third and won a bottle of wine!
Tuesday 28th October - Tintagel, Coastal Path, 10 miles of ups and downs!
Tintagel Head, with its remains of a monastery and castle.
Tuesday morning was another misty but warm day. We drove to Tintagel and walked down to Tintagel Head, with its remains of an ancient monastery and castle.
We set off on the good old South-West Coast Path - of which we saw a lot during this holiday - heading north then east along the headland and cliffs.
The path went up and down, passing Barras Nose, Smith's Cliffs, Gullastem, Bossiney Haven and Benoath Cove before we stopped at Rocky Valley. Here we turned around and retraced our steps back to Tintagel Head.
Rocky Valley, a couple of miles east of Tintagel on the South-West Coast Path.
We then split up, with some going back into the town to explore the many shops and pubs while the rest of us continued our walk. This time heading south on our favourite coastal path, we passed more bizarrely named places such as Dunder Hole, Gull Point, Dennis Scale, Bagalow Beach and Hole Beach before reaching Trebarwith Strand.
Having failed to get a Cornish Pasty at the café at Tintagel Head, we hoped for better luck at Trebarwith Strand. The café had just sold its last one when we arrived and the take-away, with its bright metal sign advertising their genuine Cornish pasties, had also run out.
Trebarwith Strand, a couple of miles south of Tintagel on the South-West Coast Path.
We wandered up to the Port William Hotel to see if they had any, but we had to make do with beer and sandwiches. Needless to say, the others back in Tintagel town had a plethora of bakeries making fresh pasties of all types to choose from.
We made our way back to the town by partly retracing our outbound path and then cutting across country through farmland. (I somehow failed to record our route on my GPS, so I'm afraid there's no map for your to look at.)
After driving home, we freshened up and walked down to the Port Gaverne Hotel where we had an excellent supper.
Wednesday 29th October - Lanhydrock House and Grounds
Lanhydrock House on a very misty, murky day.
Wednesday was a very misty, murky day so we decided to rest our legs for a bit and not to do an organised walk that day. Instead some people chose to mooch about Port Isaac while a few of us went to Lanhydrock House. This National Trust property is near Bodmin, and is well worth a look if you're in the area.
This Jacobean country house suffered a major fire in 1881 and was refurbished in high-Victorian style, with all the Victorian mod cons available at the time. It is therefore a very interesting house to look around.
One of the drawing rooms in Lanhydrock House.
There were many rooms to examine on our tour of the house, including servants quarters as well as the well appointed family rooms. The many rooms of the kitchen were quite impressive too.
After the tour we stopped for lunch at the café before exploring the grounds. Many cycle tracks have recently been added as well as a cycle hire shop. We stuck to walking in the misty woodland and on footpaths leading us down by the River Fowey.
That evening I cooked a chicken curry while Julia cooked a lasagne and Pat made a fruit salad. After supper, some of us went to another pub quiz, where we came joint first! Sadly we lost the tie-breaker but still came home with a free bottle of wine.
Thursday 30th October - Coastal Path around Port Gaverne and Port Isaac, 9 miles
St Illickswell Gig, on the South-West Coast Path about a mile east of Port Gaverne.
Thursday we decided to do the local stretch of the South-West Coast Path, right outside our front door. We walked down to Port Gaverne and up on to Main Head, from where we could see our house on the cliff, and then on to the coastal path heading east.
For a mile or so, we followed the path up and down until we got to Saint Illickswell Gug (gug being a local word for a cave) where we turned inland and followed a footpath that emerged onto the road to Port Gaverne.
There was a footpath through a farm that would have taken us down through a valley back into Port Gaverne, but we had been warned that the local farm owner had blocked it and was unwelcoming to ramblers.
Walking through the valley that leads down to Port Gaverne.
Sure enough, the farmer appeared as we approached the farm and told us quite sternly that the path was closed and had been closed for years. Our recent ordnance survey map didn't agree. We asked about another path on our map that also crossed his farm. He said there was no such path and told us to use the road.
Feeling a little defeated we followed the road, but in the opposite direction to his suggestion, in the hope of finding the other footpath, but it was too well hidden. Further up, by another farm, we spoke to a much more friendly farmer who very helpfully gave us clear directions of how to reach the valley by a different and somewhat longer route.
Port Isaac Quay, as seen from the harbour wall.
This route did have the benefit of passing the Cornish Arms pub. We stopped off there for a drink before following the footpath behind the pub that took us through farmland and into the valley.
We followed the course of the valley down to Port Gaverne and then walked the road back to Port Isaac, where we bought some Cornish pasties and ate them down on the quay.
After lunch we had a wander around Port Isaac before some of us thought we'd explore a bit of the coastal path to the west of the quay. This involved a steep walk up to the cliffs, from where we could see much more of Port Isaac.
Squeezy Belly Alley. A very narrow alleyway in Port Isaac.
Once we rounded Lobber Point, the village disappeared from view to be replaced by a very hilly cliff-top path. We got as far as Pine Haven, where the path dipped into a valley and then rose so steeply that steps had been cut into the path. We counted 150 of them! Having proved we could climb them, and got our breath back, we retraced our route back to Port Isaac.
We explored the warren of fisherman's cottages, now mostly all holiday homes, and came across a very narrow alleyway between some houses. This is known as Squeezy Belly Alley. As we passed through it, we realised how aptly named it was. After a little more exploring, we made our way back to the house, just as it was getting dark. See our route on Bing Maps.
Before we got back to the house, Julia had been busy making scones, which were ready as we arrived. Fantastic! Kathy had made a casserole that had been gently simmering in the slow cooker all day and was ready to eat as soon Ann had done the baked spuds. Sue had made a spectacular Pavlova for dessert. After supper, some of us went back into Port Isaac for a few drinks in the Golden Lion pub.
Friday 31st October - Bodmin Moor, Rough Tor and Brown Willy Tor, challenging!
Walking from Little Rough Tor to Showery Tor on Bodmin Moor.
Friday was a complete contrast to the previous walks. Miles inland and far from the coastal path, we parked at Poldue Downs on the north-west corner of Bodmin Moor. From there we yomped up to the saddle between Little Rough Tor and Showery Tor, and after getting our breath back, we searched for the Holy Well.
We thought we'd found this spring, only to discover another one further along as we made our way to Little Rough Tor. The second Holy Well fitted the description better than the first.
Exploring Little Rough Tor involved lots of clambering over rocks of all shapes and sizes, but the views we pretty impressive. It was also incredibly windy up there!
Posing for a group photo by Showery Tor before descending into the valley.
We crossed the saddle to Showery Tor where we stopped to look around before starting our descent into the valley that lay between us and Brown Willy Tor. The route wasn't particularly clear and we were greeted by a fence at the bottom of the valley. Following the fence we eventually came to a gate allowing us to join the permissive path up to the summit of Brown Willy Tor.
Finally reaching the top, after a long steep ascent, we were blasted by the fierce wind. We had to descend a little way on the leeward side to find somewhere we could eat our lunch without it being blown out of our hands. Lunch over, we descended into the valley on the same permissive path.
Behind this gate lies the path up to Brown Willy Tor.
Climbing the other side of the valley we took a more westward route. In fact the intended route was even more westward than I had anticipated, and I ended up climbing Rough Tor (big brother of Little Rough Tor) while the rest of the group skirted round the base of the tor. Their route (the correct route) passed through the rocky remains of an ancient settlement and field system. My route had me clambering round the massive rocks on Rough Tor, in sight of the others most of the time.
Our routes converged north of Rough Tor at the remains of another ancient settlement. From there we walked a relatively gentle path back to the car park. See our route on Bing Maps.
We took a massive detour to stop at Jamaica Inn on the return journey to the house. This famous smugglers inn is not that far from Brown Willy Tor but as there is no road across the moor, we had to drive all the way around it. Once home, we began our packing before going to the Golden Lion pub for supper.
Saturday 1st November - Journey Home, via Stourhead in Wiltshire
The lake at Stourhead with the Temple of Apollo in the distance.
After finishing our packing and tidying up the house, we all set off on our journeys home. Some of us decided to break up our journey with a stop at Stourhead, close to the A303 in Wiltshire.
Despite the 2½ hour journey from Port Isaac, we arrived at Stourhead within a quarter of an hour of each other. After a picnic lunch we wandered around the gardens and the lake, with all its grottos, temples and follys.
We'd probably missed the best of the turning autumn leaves, but the grounds still held a magical beauty. A visit to the gift shop and café were in order, before continuing our homeward journey.
Holiday 5 - Our Weekend Away in the Peak District
In May 2014 we were treated to a walking weekend in the Peak District, organised by Jude and Adam, who moved to that area the previous year. It was good to meet up with these two founder members of the Berkshire Weekend Walkers again and to see some of the splendid countryside in which they now live.
Friday night saw a large number of us meeting up in the Crown pub in Matlock after travelling up and finding our various accommodations. Some camped while others preferred the luxury of guest-houses and hotels. The Crown is a large JD Wetherspoons pub with room for all of us and provided our evening meal.
Saturday 10th May - Matlock, Bonsall and Middleton Top, 11¾ miles
Marching uphill from Matlock on the Limestone Way.
The meeting point of this walk was at same the pub we were in on Friday night. For those that had been camping, this was also their breakfast venue. With thirty (yes 30) of us turning up for this walk, we set off in a traffic stopping convoy across Matlock to join the Limestone Way heading south-west out of Matlock.
The Limestone Way is a long-distance bridleway that originally ran from Castleton to Matlock but has now been extended to Rocester in Staffordshire. We followed the Limestone Way as far as Bonsall before departing to follow other footpaths forming a circular route that would take us back to Matlock.
The village centre of Bonsall.
The village of Bonsall marks the junction of the original Limestone Way from Castleton to Matlock and the new section to Rocester. Bonsall is also famed for a number of UFO sightings between the years 2000 and 2002! More importantly to us, it was the first of the stops with public toilet facilities.
During the walk, the rain alternated with the sunshine frequently enough to ensure that waterproof jackets were going on and off slightly out of sync with the weather. Needless to say, the recent heavy rainfall had made most of the paths quite muddy and some of them very slippery indeed.
Slowly making our way up the steep slopes of the Via Gellia.
Our route continued on footpaths of varying quality to Middleton, and in doing so crossed the Via Gellia, a steep sided valley with the A5012 at the bottom. This involved a steep descent on muddy paths down to the busy road. The path up the other side of the valley, to Groaning Tor, had water running down it like a stream and proved quite difficult to climb. The walk leaders assured us that it had not been like this when they did the pre-walk a month or so beforehand!
The path levelled out as we approached Middleton, where we stopped for our picnic lunch in a green in the middle of the village. After lunch we followed more footpaths to Middleton Top, the highest point of the former Cromford and High Peak Railway.
Highpeak Junction at the end of the Highpeak Trail.
This railway was used to transport material from the local quarries. The long since dismantled railway now forms the Highpeak Trail - a 17 mile trail for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. The old winding engine house is now a visitor's centre, which also provided us with toilet facilities.
We followed the Highpeak Trail to the visitor's centre at the other end, where we stopped for a snack before crossing the Cromford Canal and the River Derwent. From here we followed a series of footpaths, heading north through woodland and farmland, back towards Matlock.
Plenty of bluebells still flowering in the dell between Bow Wood and Coumbs Wood.
There were still plenty of contour lines to cross as we passed through Bow Wood and Coumbs Wood, where there were bluebells still flowering. The route levelled out a bit as we followed Heartstone Lane through the hamlets of Heartstone and Riber.
There was a large Gothic castle at Riber, which appeared more derelict the closer we got. This had looked quite impressive when viewed from Matlock. The path descended steeply from Riber Castle into Old Matlock, from where we walked through the town, back to where we'd started. See our route on Bing Maps.
By the time we got back to Matlock it was 7pm. There seemed no point in trying to organise an evening meal for 30 people in one place so we spilt up into small groups and found separate places to eat. Some went on for a few drinks afterwards while others went straight back to their digs for a well-earned sleep. We had done 1130m (3700ft) of ascent in total on this 11¾ mile walk!
Sunday 11th May - Wetton and the Manifold Valley, 8¼ miles
Descending Wetton Hill in the wind and rain.
The weather was certainly worse than the previous day as we sat in our cars in the car park at Wetton, waiting to see who would to turn up on this bleak, wet and windy day. Surprisingly 27 of us chose to go on the walk rather than find a cosy museum or café instead.
Following a footpath heading north out of Wetton, we ascended Wetton Hill. The wind was really going for it by the time we reached the trig point at the top of the hill. Luckily the weather slowly improved during the day, gradually turning into a mixture of sunshine and showers.
Atop Ecton Hill. The wind and rain subsiding now.
Ecton Hill came next, with a similar amount of ascent and descent. We stopped by the River Manifold at Ecton and at this point our leaders offered a choice: An easy route through the Manifold Valley with Jude, or a more adventurous (hilly) route via Warslow and Waterslacks with Adam.
Feeling fit, I chose the adventure route, as did most of the group. First we walked uphill to the hamlet of Warslow. Here we were passed by convoy of half-a-dozen MGA sports cars, probably on their way to a show or club gathering. I hope they weren't out a couple of hours earlier in all that heavy rain!
Crossing Warslow Brook on a wooden bridge.
Then we turned south and went back downhill again, crossing Warslow Brook on a wooden bridge before scrambling back up the other side of the valley on a very slippery path.
Over the hill, past Clayton House and back down the other side, we stopped for our picnic lunch before the rain started again. After lunch we crossed an unnamed tributary of the River Manifold. There wasn't a bridge over this stream - only some stepping stones. Unfortunately due to the recent heavy rain the water level had risen above the stepping stones, which make things a bit tricky!
Crossing an unnamed tributary of the River Manifold. Some paddling was required.
Continuing our route southward we came across the Hoo Brook, which we followed through the steep sided valley until we reached the River Manifold. Crossing the river to stop for tea and cake at the café, we were now on the same route as the other half of our group, although they had long since eaten their cake and finished their tea.
Crossing back over the river, we followed a lane and then a footpath that ran alongside the River Manifold. Some way along the valley, we came across Thor's Cave high above us on the other side of the valley. We crossed the river again and followed a zigzag trail up to the cave mouth.
Thor's Cave as seen from river level. It seems a long way up.
The views from the cave mouth were quite impressive. Wetton Hill, the first hill of our walk, could clearly be seen. The views inside the cave were more interesting, so some of us climbed in. This wasn't some fancy show cave with steps cut into the rock and hand rails. This was a cave much as nature had made it, and presented a bit more of a challenge with slippery rocks and no flat surfaces.
Getting back out seemed even more challenging but no-one came to any grief, although some had wet and muddy bottoms by the time they were out of the cave.
Some of us climbed into Thor's Cave for a look around.
The route back to Wetton from the cave was through farmland and was mostly flat (relatively speaking). On arrival in Wetton we made our way straight to the pub where the walk finished. This 8¼ mile walk included 980m (3200ft) of ascent in total. See our route on Bing Maps.
We found the other half of our group were well established in the pub, sitting around a big table by the fireplace. Judging by the debris on the table they'd been there for some time and had partaken of a bit of pub grub as well as a few drinks.
With our thirst slaked, we made our way back to the car park. Those of the group that weren't staying for Monday made their farewells. As this walk was shorter than the previous day's, we had time to go back to our digs and clean up before going into Matlock for drinks and an evening meal.
Monday 12th May - Charlecote Park (National Trust), Warwickshire
On Monday we packed up and checked out of our various accommodations and made our way home via Charlecote Park - a National Trust property close to the M40 at the Warwick end.
Charlecote House - well part of it, anyway.
Most of us were already NT members so we didn't have to pay to get in, but Jane wasn't and took the plunge by joining up there and then.
We took a walk around the garden and grounds before lunch, which included a miniature lake. Then we dined at the Orangery Restaurant before taking a tour of the 16th century house and some of the outhouses, including the Brew-house.
There is also a very good nursery there, which we mooched around looking at the huge selection of plants there before continuing our journey home.
Holiday 4 - Our Weekend Away in Shropshire
Ludlow town as seen from the Castle, with the Clee Hills in the distance.
In March 2014, we organised a weekend away based on an HF Holidays guided walking weekend in Church Stretton, Shropshire. HF Holidays provided 3 nights of hotel accommodation and two days of guided walking. We added in our own walk on Monday to make it into a long weekend.
Those of us that were able to take Friday and Monday off work travelled up on Friday morning and stopped off in the picturesque market town of Ludlow on the way to Church Stretton. The first one to arrive in Ludlow did a spot of shopping before finding a pub where the rest of us met her and had lunch.
Ludlow Castle, as seen from one of the castle's towers, most of which were accessible.
After lunch some of us explored the castle while others explored the market and shops. The weather was a little cold but sunny with a blue sky, so the town and castle were seen at their best. There were plenty of staircases in the castle to test our fitness!
Shortly after 3pm we set off on the remaining part of the journey to Church Stretton, where we checked in to the Long Mynd Hotel. At 4pm we had tea, cake and introductions to the walk leaders and hotel staff. This was followed by a short walk around the Hotel grounds and Church Stretton to get the lie of the land. We saw some interesting wood carvings in the grounds of the hotel.
We saw a number of interesting wood carvings in and around the hotel grounds.
We saw some interesting wood carvings in and around the grounds of the hotel and arrived back at the hotel at dusk, with plenty of time to freshen up before our three course evening meal. We were very well fed throughout the weekend, with little chance of losing weight despite the exercise we would have during the walks.
Just before the dinner was served, we had a briefing from the walk leaders describing the three walks taking place the next day. After the briefing there were clipboards on which we selected the walk we wanted to do and what we wanted in our sandwiches the next day. HF Holidays are very organised!
Saturday 8th March - Caer Caradoc and The Lawley, 11 miles with 1900 feet of ascent
Beginning the ascent of Caer Caradoc Hill with Helmeth Hill and Hazler Hill in the background.
Saturday began with a huge breakfast, the collection of our packed lunches, and the selection in advance of the three courses of our evening meal. (I told you they were very organised.) Most of our group had elected to do the longest/hardest walk of the three, which involved ascending Caer Caradoc Hill and The Lawley (also a hill).
We set off on foot from the hotel into a misty Church Stretton, crossing the village into farmland and then the hills. We passed between Helmeth Hill and Three Fingers Hill (named after the three spiky rocks at its peak) before beginning the ascent of Caer Caradoc Hill, which is 459m (1500ft) above sea level compared with Church Stretton at 185m (600ft).
On top of Caer Caradoc Hill. The Lawley is in the distance.
It was a fair old slog to the top of Caer Caradoc Hill, which was rather bare, with mossy grass and rocks, but there were some signs of the prehistoric hill fort on the summit. The views were quite impressive, with plenty of other hills to identify. After a short stop, we were soon taking the steep descent to Comley, losing all of the height we’d gained since the start of the walk!
A short stretch of road walking led us to the base of The Lawley, which we skirted round before ascending. Although this hill is shorter than Caer Caradoc at 368m (1200ft) it was much windier at the top. I mean really windy! We had to stand at an angle into the wind to prevent us falling over.
The summit of The Lawley with its heavyweight wind vane.
We managed to find some shelter on the leeward side of the hill to sit down for lunch. Again, there were impressive views of the surrounding countryside. Once the picnic was over, we trudged down the steep slope of the hill facing the constant pressure of the strong side-winds.
The wind eased up as we got to the bottom of the hill, from where we took a relatively flat route through the valley, passing through All Stretton and Church Stretton, back to the hotel. See our route on Bing Maps.
A surprise birthday celebration.
Just like the previous day, there was briefing before dinner from the walk leaders about the following day’s walks, with us then selecting which walk we wanted to do and what sandwiches we wanted to have.
Unlike the previous day, there was a surprise for me when we went into the dining room. The table was decorated with glitter and balloons were tied to my chair, all declaring a Happy 50th Birthday! I still had a few days to go but the Berkshire Weekend Walkers wanted to start the celebration while we were on holiday. One of our members had even baked a birthday cake! I was very touched (and a little bit embarrassed) that my walking friends had gone to such trouble.
After dinner the walk leaders provided a bit of entertainment with some word games before we retired to the bar for more drinks.
Sunday 9th March - Ludlow and the Mortimer Forest, 8 miles with 1100 feet of ascent
The River Teme as seen from the Dinham Bridge.
Sunday was gloriously sunny and noticeably warmer than Saturday. After breakfast and collecting our packed lunches, we headed down to the boot room and got ready for the walk.
It seemed that the whole of our group had chosen the medium walk for Sunday. This began and ended at Ludlow, and involved a coach trip from the hotel. After disembarking, we crossed the market square in Ludlow and took a westerly route that skirted the castle and crossed the Dinham Bridge out of Ludlow.
Ascending Mary Knoll from Hill Halton to the north.
Now the other side of the River Teme, we headed north-west along a footpath through open fields and farmland which eventually curved round to a southerly direction and up a steep hill, over a road and up another, steeper hill to Mary Knoll House.
From here we descended into the Mary Knoll Valley on a picturesque woodland path with a stream running beside it. We stopped for lunch in a clearing near the bottom of the valley and basked in the sunshine.
Woodland path in the Mary Knoll Valley.
After the picnic, we joined the Mortimer Trail, which took us up hill and doubling back to Mary Knoll, where we left the trail for a footpath taking us back down towards Ludlow. This brought us out quite near the Dinham Bridge where we’d started, but we didn’t cross the bridge. Instead we followed the bank of the river until we reached the Lower Broad Street Bridge, which we crossed into Ludlow.
View of Ludlow Castle from the Whitcliffe side of the River Teme.
With time to spare before the coach came to collect us, we explored a couple of the pubs. The first one wasn’t the best choice as the England versus Wales rugby match was being shown on the TVs in the pub. Ludlow being close to the border meant that there was a certain amount of tension in the pub. After one drink we moved on and found a very pleasant quiet pub in a courtyard by the market place.
Back at the hotel, the two members of our group that hadn’t been able to stay for the long weekend made their farewells before supper, but not before helping me finish the birthday cake.
Monday 10th March - Long Mynd & Carding Mill Valley, 6 miles with 1500 feet of ascent
Ascending Ashlet hill, with Church Stretton, the Lawley, Caer Caradoc and Hope Bowdler Hills in the background.
On Monday we checked out of the hotel after another huge breakfast. We packed the cars and drove the short distance from the hotel to the National Trust car park at Carding Mill Valley. From there we set off on a walk we'd made up in the pub in Ludlow the previous day.
Heading south-east on a path that gradually climbed the south side of the valley, we turned south-west after crossing a lane and continued to the Town Brook reservoir. Crossing the bridge we carried on going south with views of Church Stretton and our hotel to the left and a large hill to the right.
Pole Bank, the highest point on Long Mynd.
Each time the path divided, we took the route that was going uphill and before long we were heading up on to Ashlet and Yearlet hills, where there was stiff breeze following us. Once we were over the brow of the hill, the wind died down and we could enjoy the sunny weather and views of the other hills in the distance and a view into Town Brook valley.
We followed some fairly well established footpaths north-west up onto Long Mynd. Our path joined the Shropshire Way, where we headed toward Pole Bank, the highest point on Long Mynd. Next to the trig point was one of those brass plaques with directions and distances to nearby landmarks marked on it. We stopped by the trig point for a snack and a sit down.
Following the Jack Mytton Way, which would lead us down into Carding Mill Valley.
After a brief rest, we rejoined the Shropshire way, going back the way we came, but passing the point where we had joined it and carrying on heading north-east. After passing a tumulus known as Shooting Box, we took a path called the Jack Mytton Way, which would lead us down into Carding Mill Valley.
As we got further down the valley the path got more substantial, as did the stream running beside it, and at some point the path changed its name to Mott's Road. We were now in National Trust territory, with wooden marker posts well-made paths. As we got further down into the valley, there were several families enjoying the countryside. We'd had the place to ourselves when we set off from the car park, but that had been rather early.
Descending into the Carding Mill Valley on Mott's Road.
We followed the path all the way down to the National Trust visitor's centre, where there were toilets, a shop and a restaurant. All of which would come in useful.
It was lunchtime as we got there so after buying a few gifts from the shop, we had a light lunch on the roof-top terrace of the restaurant, making the most of the sunshine before the holiday ended and we set off on our homeward journey.
For a walk that had been made up just the day before, without any form of recce, it had turned out to be very enjoyable - helped by the blue skies and sunshine.
See our route on Bing Maps.
Holiday 3 - Our Weekend Away in the Cotswolds
In September 2013 Jo, one of our members who transferred to us from the Gloucestershire Walking Group (GWG) organised a weekend away in the Cotswolds for us and her previous walking group. The centre of activities was Stow-on-the-Wold, where we met up on Friday evening and where we dined both evenings.
Two walks had been planned for us. Jo led a 10½ mile walk on Saturday that followed the first section of the Cotswold Way. Steve (one of the GWG members) led an 8 mile circular walk on Sunday around the Wychwood Forest area and Charlbury, starting from Ascott-under-Wychwood.
Friday 20th September - Arrival at Stow-on-the-Wold
The picturesque Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water.
Those of us that were able to take Friday off work made it into a long weekend by doing our own exploring of the Cotswolds before we all met up in Stow-on-the-Wold that evening. The people I was car-sharing with stopped of at Bourton-on-the-Water, where we had a pub lunch, perused the shops and wandered around this picturesque Cotswold village, taking pictures and eating ice cream.
By mid-afternoon we made the short trip to Stow-on-the-Wold where we met up with some of the others that had already arrived and headed off to a Tea Shop. About half of our group were staying at the YHA, so once the tea was drunk we checked in and made our beds. The rest of the evening was spent in one of the pubs in the square, where we had supper and gradually accumulated more of our group as they arrived.
Saturday 21st September - The Cotswold Way
Assembled outside the YHA waiting to go on our first walk.
After breakfast on Saturday we assembled by the YHA ready for our first walk. It was a bit chilly first thing but soon warmed up.
This was a linear walk, which required a little organisation of the cars and passengers. We drove to the small village of Stanton where we met up with a couple of GWG members. Leaving some of the cars there, we all travelled in the remaining cars to Chipping Campden to begin the Cotswold Way.
The High Street at Chipping Campden.
Chipping Campden is a market town with an impressive High Street, lined with buildings of mellow limestone architecture. From there we set off north-west up Dover's Hill, and then we headed south-west toward Broadway Hill.
On the way we stopped off at the Broadway Tower, an 18th century folly at the second highest point in the Cotswolds. Even without ascending the tower, the views of Gloucestershire and Worcestershire were impressive.
The Broadway Tower on Broadway Hill.
Continuing on the Cotswold Way we descended the hill to Broadway village, stopping on the way down for our picnic lunch. While we sat relaxing on the hillside, we were passed by numerous runners, one of which told us that they were doing a 24-hour run along the Cotswold Way! We reached Broadway village and took a break to use the facilities and to enjoy an ice cream. Although not particularly sunny, it was quite a warm day for September.
The village of Stanton on the Cotswold Way.
Relieved and refreshed, we continued our journey, ascending Burhill, descending into Buckland Wood, ascending Shenberrow Hill and finally descending into the picturesque village of Stanton.
For a 10½ mile walk, this certainly felt like a real work-out. Goodness knows how those runners we met would feel when they finished! Returning by car to Chipping Campden to pick up the other cars, some of us had a quick wander round the shops and then finished off the afternoon at a Tea Shop.
Back at Stow-on-the-Wold, showered and changed, we headed down the market square to a pub for supper. Jo had booked a function room above the pub, where some other GWG members joined us for our evening meal.
Sunday 22nd September - Ascott-under-Wychwood and Charlbury
Steve, a GWG member who joined us for the Saturday evening meal, was the walk leader for Sunday. After checking out of our accommodation we took a cross-country route to Ascott-under-Wychwood, a tiny village with one shop, from where the walk started. Quite a few GWG members were there to join us for the walk.
Stopping for our picnic lunch on a green in Charlbury.
We set off more-or-less eastward through a mixture of farmland and footpaths, eventually crossing a railway line and the River Evenlode as we reached the small town of Charlbury. Entering the town we found a green where we stopped for our picnic lunch. It was an ideal spot, complete with bins and toilet facilities. There was even a Co-op store close by that proved useful to those that hadn't brought a packed lunch with them.
As the sun started breaking through the clouds it felt quite hot sitting on the green. Lunch complete, we doubled back and left Charlbury. We were now following the Oxfordshire Way, heading north-westerly along the approximate course of the River Evenlode.
Crossing the River Evenlode at Ascott Mill.
At some point the Oxfordshire Way merged with the Wychwood Way and we continued west following the combined trail. This took us close to where the walk had started. Diverting from the Oxfordshire Way, we crossed the river and railway line again to finish outside the village shop in Ascott-under-Wychwood. A shorter, flatter walk than Saturday's one but nonetheless enjoyable and it finished with plenty of time to get home.
At this point some made their farewells while the rest of us headed off to the local pub to slake our thirst. Then we made our farewells and went our separate ways home. It seemed a little bit sad to say goodbye to fellow walkers that we'd only just met but it mostly felt good to have had such an excellent weekend away.
We must thank Jo for organising the weekend and leading one of the walks, Steve for leading the other walk, and other GWG members that helped with the pre-walk preparations.
Holiday 2 - Our Weekend Away in the South Downs
In February 2013 members of the Berkshire Weekend Walkers and the Berkshire Walkers 20s & 30s group went for a winter walking holiday on the South Downs - Britain's newest National Park. Steph (of the BWWs) and Ruth (of the BWs 20s & 30s) drummed up enough enthusiasm to get eight of us together to go an organised walking weekend with HF Holidays at Abingworth Hall in West Sussex. HF provided accommodation for three nights and two days of led walks. To make the most of the trip, we extended the holiday to a long weekend with Ruth leading short walks on Friday and Monday.
Friday 15th February - Pulborough, Broomers Hill and Nutbourne
Pulborough Brooks - looking rather waterlogged. We decided against walking there.
Friday we met up in Pulborough in West Sussex at around 11am. After officially starting our holiday with a visit to the Tea Room on the high street, we set off on a five mile walk. Originally Ruth had planned to walk through Pulborough Brooks to the bird sanctuary but it was obvious even from a distance that this walk would involve a lot of paddling, so an alternative route on higher ground was taken. The first uphill leg of the walk rewarded us with views to the south, looking down on farmland, a plant nursery and the water-logged brooks. Further along the Broomers Hill ridge we also got views to the north, and we reckoned we could make out the North Downs on the horizon.
View looking north from the top of the ridgeway. We reckon that's the North Downs on the horizon.
After a picnic lunch stop, we descended in to the hamlet of Nutbourne where we stopped at the Rising Sun for a drink. This pub was ideal for us as it had bare wooden floors without carpet, which meant we didn't need to take off our boots before coming inside, and it had some good real-ales on tap. One of the other customers took an interest in our walk and gave advice on our return route. Refreshed, we left the pub to continue our walk.
Initially retracing our steps to leave Nutbourne, we then took a route through farmland into a hamlet called Marehill. This took us down to the main road back into Pulborough, finishing our walk with plenty of time to get to Abingworth Hall to check in and partake in afternoon tea.
Afternoon tea was followed by introductions to the hotel staff, the walk leaders and the other holidaymakers. A splendid three course evening meal was followed by entertainments provided by the walk leaders, which included a number of different types of quiz. This helped break the ice between us and the other residents.
Saturday 16th February - Amberley to Arundel via South Downs & Monarch's Way
Ascending Barpham Hill between the South Downs Way and the Monarch's Way.
After a hearty breakfast on Saturday we were taken by coach to the village of Amberley, where we started our ascent onto the South Downs way. This was not the official start point for this walk as the leader had recce'd the route and found the low-lying first section to be far too wet and boggy.
Initially we headed east along the South Downs Way, past Rackham Hill. This gave us views of Amberley Village, Amberley Wild Brooks, Parham House and its deer park.
Following the River Arun into Arundel with its Cathedral, Church and Castle.
We left the South Downs Way at Springhead Hill and headed south, through farmland and rolling countryside, to join the Monarch's Way at Angmering Park. On our way a stag and some deer crossed our path and disappeared into woodland.
We followed the Monarch's Way into Arundel. We managed to find a tea shop that had tables outside – we weren't clean enough to go inside. Refreshed, we continued to explore Arundel until the coach came to take us back to Abingworth Hall for another three-course meal and evening of quizzical entertainment.
Sunday 17th February - Findon to Steyning via two Hill Forts
The pond in the gardens of Abingworth House on the foggy Sunday morning.
Sunday started off quite foggy but amazingly it cleared completely, just as the coach dropped us off in a layby on the A24 just north of Findon. The first half of this walk was a big loop around Findon, crossing many contour lines, with a stop to explore Cissbury Ring hill fort en-route. This Iron Age hill fort is one of the largest in Britain, covering some 60 acres.
After the loop had nearly brought us back to where we'd started, the route took a sharp right and took us up onto the South Downs Way. Shortly after that we stopped to admire the somewhat smaller Chactonbury Ring hill fort.
The steep slope up the western side of the Cissbury Ring hill fort.
From there we continued on the South Downs Way for a while before departing to follow the mostly woodland path to Steyning. This interesting town has existed from Anglo-Saxon times and contains a wide variety of architectural styles. After a short exploration of the town, our thoughts turned to refreshment and we managed to find a tea shop that would accept us in our somewhat muddied state, where we stayed until the coach arrived to collect us.
The third night at Abingworth Hall was much like the second, with excellent food, fine wine, local beer and old-fashioned entertainment.
Monday 18th February - Climping and Littlehampton
On Monday morning we checked out of Abingworth Hall and split up – some of us going with Ruth for her short walk from Climping, taking in the coastal nature reserve between Littlehampton and Bognor, while others went off to do their own exploring.
Holiday 1 - Our Weekend Away in the Peak District
In September 2012 a walking weekend was held in the Peak District (Britain's first National Park) attended by members of the Berkshire Walkers 20s & 30s group and the newly formed Berkshire Weekend Walkers. The centre of activities was Edale, in the north of the Peak District, where the organiser and some of the group camped. A few of us stayed in more luxurious accommodation, in B&Bs and pub/hotels, as this part of the UK gets its fair share of rain. We needn't have worried though; the weather was good to us that weekend.
Friday 7th September - Lose Hill and Mam Tor
View of Edale from Hollins Cross. You can just see Lee's tent at the campsite in the distance.
The first walk was planned to start at mid-day on the Friday, to allow those travelling up Friday morning time to get there. I had travelled up Thursday night with Lee, the walks organiser, so after my cooked breakfast at the pub I was staying at, I strolled up to the campsite. With time on our hands before the start of the official walk, we decided to do a bit of exploring and took a boat trip through the Speedwell caves.
The first walk began at the public car park in Edale and we climbed the hill to Hollins Cross using the old pack-horse route to Castleton. At the top of the hill, we could see Edale and the campsite that some of the group were staying at. You can even see Lee's tent!
The path from Lose Hill to Mam Tor.
Once on the rounded grassy ridge, we walked to Lose Hill on the eastern end, with views towards the climbers paradise of Stanage Edge and down into the cavers paradise of Castleton.
We doubled back to Hollins Cross and then walked up the gentle ridge to Mam Tor (known as the shivering mountain, due to its habit of having one or two landslides; most notably removing the road on its southern slopes in the early 1980s).
We stopped off for a guided tour of the Blue-John Caverns and an ice cream before returning to Edale via the broken road at Little Mam Tor and then back over Hollins Cross.
This 8 mile walk was a good warm-up for what was in store for us over the rest of the weekend. That evening we dined and drank at the Old Nags Head pub, opposite the campsite.
Saturday 8th September - Kinder Scout
Kinder Scout is a must for any Rambler: it is here where, 80 years ago this year, the mass trespass occurred which lead to the formation of the association; the campaign for the rights of way network and National Parks; the granting of the Countryside Right of Way act and the Ramblers on-going work to get the right to walk our coastline.
Climbing Jabob's Ladder en-route to Kinder Scout. It is as steep as it looks.
With a fairly early start (9:30am) we set off from outside the Old Nags Head, where we followed the Pennine Way path across low grazing meadows (over many dry-stone wall styles) to Upper Booth (where there used to be a good iced cream shop) before climbing up Jacob's Ladder to Edale Cross (on the old pack horse route to Hayfield).
I have a slight confession to make here. I was striding ahead as we followed the Pennine Way to Kinder Scout and didn't realise that the leader had planned to include a diversion to see the ancient monument of Edale Cross. As I approached the trig point at Kinder Low, I heard very distant shouting. It was the rest of my group, heading the other way, to Edale Cross. They seemed to be indicating that I should carry on, so I did, following the path through open moorland and arriving at Kinder Downfall sometime before they did.
The peat-bog that makes up the summit of Kinder Scout. Needless to say, we got our boots wet and muddy.
Once the other caught up with me, at Kinder Downfall, we stopped for our picnic by this waterfall.
After lunch our leader decided we should strike out across the moor to meet the north-eastern edge, with its views over the Derwent Valley. This was a muddy experience, walking through the heather with our boots occasionally sinking into the soft peat. As there was no defined path or obvious landmarks, we had to use dead-reckoning with the leader and I both using our compasses and furious hand signalling. Luckily it wasn't too long before we could see some landmarks to follow and we were soon on an established path. We returned to The Old Nags Head via the slopes of Ringing Rodger and Golden Clough.
Although this walk was only about 9½ miles, it felt like much more. That night some of us met up in Lee's tent and had a homomade stew and some bottles of red wine.
Sunday 9th September - Derwent Valley and Margery Hill
The Derwent Valley has three reservoirs: Howden Dam, Derwent and Ladybower, which supply drinking water to Sheffield. The most recent (and largest), Ladybower, was built in the 1940s, flooding the villages of Ashopton and Derwent; the remains of which can still be seen when the water is low. The visitor centre is at the dam of Derwent reservoir, which was famously used as target practise for Barnes-Wallis' bouncing bomb before the dam-busters raids on the Ruhr Valley in Germany.
Howden Reservoir, viewed from the path on the eastern edge of the water.
We drove to the Derwent Valley National Park visitor centre where we started our walk directly in front of the dam. We followed the gentle paved path north, alongside Derwent and Howden to the old Derwent village bridge at Slippery Stones, where we stopped for our picnic.
At this point there was a choice. Those not wanting to do the hilly part of the walk continued to circumnavigate the reservoir, back to the car park. The rest of us began the ascent of Margery Hill via Cranberry Clough.
We climbed the path (on the old pack horse route to Penistone) up to Margery Hill before striking off over the moorland to Dovestones Tor.
Cranberry Clough, viewed from the path up to Margery Hill.
The trudging across heather and peat, following no apparent path, was rewarded with spectacular views of Win Hill and the Hope Valley.
We followed Howden Edge for a while before making our way back down to the reservoir and its easy path back to the car park and ice cream shop.
This challenging 13½ mile walk took most of the day and by the time we got back to Edale and got cleaned up, both of the pubs had stopped serving food! Some sweet-talking to the bar and kitchen staff at the Old Nags Head persuaded them to knock up some baked potatoes, which were gratefully received and washed down with plenty of ale.
Monday 10th September - Chatsworth House and Grounds
After packing up on Monday morning, we set off for Chatsworth House, to do an easy day of site seeing. We needed something easy after Sunday's walk.
Although I've been round the house and garden at Chatsworth a couple of times before, there was still plenty to see, and it was early afternoon before we started on the journey home.