Archive for the 'Great Escapes' Category

We’re expecting a storm tomorrow

Posted by on January 31st 2014 in Great Escapes

North Wales 2013 – Thursday/wildcamp/Friday mashup

51 today! A lie-in, breakfast in bed, pressies and cards - the perfect start to another roasting-hot day.

Outside the cottage the RAF did another low-level fly-by, I assumed that it wasn't all in my honour but it was impressive all the same:


Chinook #1


Chinook #2


Chinook #3


The resident Squadron Leader looks on, unimpressed by the thundering mechanical behemoth


We spent the day in Betws-y-Coed, sight-seeing and getting some retail therapy. As a birthday treat we dined at The Gwydyr Hotel, the food was very good although for some inexplicable reason, in a land that supports so many sheep, the kitchen had run out of lamb. No matter, the beef was fine alternative. Ice-creams were had from Cadwaladers Ice Cream Café, Chris got some walking-sandals from F*** & T***, and we spent much time in many shops trying and failing to get Anna some sunglasses that she'd be happy with.

After an evening meal back at the cottage me and Ella packed our kit - we were off up my mountain to introduce her gently to the delights of wildcamping. We took the same route as we had on Tuesday, eventually finding a great spot in the gap at the base of the Daear Ddu (a place that we christened "The Gap of Rohan"). We'd picked a fine night - clear, warm and calm, with a gentle up-slope breeze that kept the midges at bay. Ella went down to Llyn y Foel to get water while I pitched the tent:


The Banshee 300 pitched in the Gap of Rohan


After a supper of discounted Wayfarer meals (found a few days before in the bargain-bucket at Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports in Capel Curig) we settled for the night and slept well.

Friday morning was warm and clear, we were up at sunrise to see a warm glow on the mountain and misty haze in the Lledr Valley below. We wandered up onto the nearby ridge and had breakfast (courtesy of Decathlon's Aptonia range) al fresco on a suitable rock:


Moel Siabod cwm pano (the tent's on the left)


On the ridge just after sunrise


Lledr Valley - mist and haze


 Dolwyddelan Castle #1


 Ella doesn't do mornings...


but she does do breakfast


Dolwyddelan Castle #2








Knobbly #1


Knobbly #2


Striking camp didn't take long - we'd not brought much. With the weather set fair and with us being on familiar ground we'd figured that stuff like waterproofs, spare layers, rucksack liners, map/compass/GPS weren't really necessary. Hell, I even eschewed the Scarpa SLs and wore my tatty old Trezetas instead! No shorts though - I didn't want to scare the wildlife 8-O


Holy Trezetas


We shouldered our packs and completed the circuit of Llyn y Foel, taking a few pics on the way:


Columnar jointing, Daear Ddu


Moel Siabod reflected in Llyn y Foel


Llyn y Foel and "The Gap of Rohan"


On the way back down we had time for a bit of exploring around the quarry. Ella kept finding rocks shaped like footprints, I aced her with this one that bore an uncanny resemblance to Brian Griffin:




Some of the small quarry buildings overlooking the reservoir looked like they'd be fine places for setting up a bivvy:


Quarry building 1 #1


Quarry building 1 #2


Quarry building 2 #1


That Lonesome Pine again




Reedy margins


Nearly back at the cottage the view was extensive - here's a 180-degree pano:




Before long we were back at the cottage. Chris did us a superb cooked breakfast, partly to refuel us and partly to use up the bacon, eggs, hash-browns and other such stuff in the kitchen.

The afternoon proved to be hotter than the morning. Nobody was up for going out so we spent a leisurely afternoon getting a lot of our stuff packed up in order to make Saturday's 10 a.m. getaway a tad easier.

Outside the view down the Llugwy Valley was being ruined by these festrous things:


Moel Maelogen wind farm


Soon afterwards the RAF provided more entertainment. We wondered if we'd been overflown by royalty:


Charlie's Angel?


Packing almost done, I took a few parting-shots of the cottages:


Cottages #1


Cottages #2


The kitchen


The Boss


After that, and after a third-and-final hot meal, we had an early night in preparation for an early start on Saturday.

North Wales 2013 – Wednesday – To Hell and back

Posted by on July 29th 2013 in Great Escapes, Summer Holidays

Wednesday was set to be another roasting-hot day. Ready before the others as usual, I grabbed some time with the camera:




Siabod Holiday Cottages


Inside the cottage #1


Inside the cottage #2


Typhoon pic #1


Typhoon pic #2


Typhoon pic #3


It was a day for something, well, different (for us at least). Ella had been texting a friend and had discovered that said friend and his family were holidaying in Pwllheli, not a million miles away from us. We were due for a day at the seaside so I suggested a meet-up and we got an invitation in return - if we made our way to their caravan we could have a trip out on their boat. The kids were understandable excited at the prospect so we accepted and after several miles of proper driving and several more miles of detours due to roadworks we eventually found the site.

I was expecting a standard holiday-site rental-caravan and a dinghy, what we found was a plush residential static palace and a huge Chaparral, not dissimilar to this thing. We were duly impressed with the caravan, with the boat and with Ella's choice of friends! After intros and cuppas we hatched a cunning plan acceptable to all: the kids would go out on the boat with the other family, me and Chris would take our leave and do a mini-tour of some of the Lleyn Peninsula's beaches, later we'd meet at the caravan for a BBQ.

We waved goodbye to the kids and made for the beach north of Abersoch. The weather was scorching and I expected the sands to be alive with factor-50-lathered revellers but the beach was hardly populated at all -  I had forgotten that Leicestershire schools' summer holidays start a week earlier than most of the rest of the country. We spent a quiet hour or so catching some rays and having a paddle.


Towards Abersoch


Towards Llanbedrog


From there we drove to Pentowyn Dunes, parked up and spent some time on Porth Neigwl (Hell's Mouth) beach, not far from where Belly plays with and tests the hand-made cedar sea-kayaks that he designs and builds:


Towards Mynydd Gilan


Towards Mynydd Penarfynydd and Mynydd y Graig


Some stones


 Bird 1 #1


 Bird 1 #2


Closer to Mynydd y Graig


Bird 2 #1


Some more stones


Even more stones!


OK, it's getting a tad silly now


Bird 2 #2


After a stroll up and down the beach it was time to get back to the others to reclaim our kids. They'd been around the coast as far as we had and they'd really enjoyed their day. We had a great evening with BBQ food, beers (for the others) and chat while the kids went off to explore the shore:


The kids on Carreg yr Imbill (Gimblet Rock)


Eventually we had to thank our hosts, say our farewells and drive back to the cottage.

On the way, there was fanciful talk of getting a boat...

North Wales 2013 – Tuesday – The hill at the end of the garden

Posted by on July 26th 2013 in Great Escapes, Summer Holidays

Tuesday. Forecast: dry, hot and sunny again. Early morning saw a fine inversion filling the valleys, usually a good sign in these parts. It was a day to get the boots on and visit an old friend.


Inversion below basecamp


A wider view


After a hearty breakfast we were off up the track that passes the cottages. Moel Siabod was looking good under blue skies and the occasional light cloud:


The track to Moel Siabod


At the first reservoir one of the subsidiary summits comes into view


At the first reservoir


 A bit further on


 Nearing the first quarry, a lone shapely conifer clings to a spoil-fan.
Could this be the celebrated Lonesome Pine?


First quarry


Angles and reflections


Plenty of derelict quarry buildings


Just past the quarry the Daear Ddu edge comes fully into view.
You can argue all you like but it isn't a ridge, if you don't believe me, look at the contours on the map.
And while I'm being pedantic, the geology maps/books say it's made of dolerite (diabase) but there's gabbro and microgabbro in there too.
Look, here's a bit that Ella brought home:


For those not familiar with pre-decimalisation coinage, the 1907 penny included for scale is 1.22" (31mm) in diameter


Just over the rise there's a fine view of the lie of the land.
As an aside, dodgy photo-stitching seems to have doubled my quota of daughters  8-O


Private beach at Llyn y Foel - a perfect place to stop for lunch, and the last water-source for several hours


Walkers on the ridge edge


This critter was busy collecting grubs and flies at the waterside.
It's some sort of Pipit but we can't decide which flavour - Tree, Rock or Meadow.
Any ideas?


Ella & Anna enjoying a break


Another of Anna's intriguing pics


On the way again after lunch


Proof that Aliens exist - Ella finds the remains of a dead facehugger


Llyn y Foel from Daear Ddu


Chris and Anna a bit further up the ridge edge


That's gabbro, that is. Note the characteristic weathered pitted/knobbly texture.
Child included for scale.


About half-way up


The view over to Dolwyddelan


Ella and Chris on one of the steeper bits


Anna and Ella nearing at the top of the Daear Ddu


The trig point on Carnedd Moel Siabod is right at the top of the Daear Ddu,
or a longish stone's throw away if you keep to the edge as we did.
Basically, to miss the top you'd have to be a special kind of idiot.


Pano from the top.
In theory it's possible to see 13 of the 14/15/16 Welsh 3000s on a clear day.


Ella and Anna triumphant on Moel Siabod's top-most rock


Subsidiary summits from the shelter


Tryfan through the heat-haze


Birds of a feather ...


... stuck together


The grass around the summit was studded with vivid Harebells


A look over the edge of the cwm


 Looking down the gully before the rise to the first subsidiary summit


 Looking back to the main summit


Another gully, the one between the two subsidiary summits


 Stitch that!


Rest & Rehydration on outcrops of distinctive rhyolitic tuff


 Awkward ground - too steep to walk down, not steep enough to go scree-sliding


Back on the main the track, Ella took a shine to this tree


Back at the cottage it was boots off, feet-up and rehydrate. Despite the mainly overcast skies after leaving the ridge, the temperatures had still been pushing 30C and there had been hardly any breeze, so we were fairly dried-out. After baths/showers and a cooked meal we crashed out where we sat. The cider helped, of course. It counts towards your 5-a-day, allegedly.

It's a classic walk which provides varied terrain, a superb scramble, a fine ridge-walk and a summit-view that is, arguably, the best in Wales. If you've not done it, do it. If you've already done it, do it again!

North Wales 2013 – Monday – Zip it, Shrimpy!

So, what do you arrange for a thrill-seeking girl's 18th-birthday treat? That's an easy one... you dress her up in red overalls, stick her in a harness and chuck her off the side of a mountain :mrgreen:

The venue for the day was Zip World near Bethesda. Here's the web-page blurb:

"Zip World has the longest zip line in Europe and is NOW OPEN at Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda – “The Nearest Thing to Flying”!!

The Zip World site contains two specially constructed and spectacular zip lines, the first will take you down to the bottom of the quarry where you will pick up your specialised vehicle for a magnificent quarry tour, before zip lining back for a mile to the start.

You will be reaching speeds of up to 100 mph and you will be travelling 500ft above the mountain lake so be ready for a ride of a lifetime!"

Me and Chris took the quarry tour and stayed away from anything dangerous, Anna did the tour and the Little Zipper, Ella got the full works. I'll let the pics and captions tell the story. Don't forget to max the volume when playing the movie.


Folk on the Little Zipper


Little Zipper end-zone




Suited and booted


Waiting for the safety lecture


Concentrating hard on not looking nervous


Up at the Little Zipper end-zone we could see the Big Zipper launch area


Zooming in on the Big Zipper launch area


The RAF provided a fly-by


Ella and Anna wired-up at the Little Zipper launch-pad


On the move


Approaching the fastest bit


Ella approaching the bungee-brake


Anna hitting the bungee-brake


Just hanging around


Happy Ella


Happy Anna


So alike and yet so different


Ella looking apprehensive up at the Big Zipper launch area


Still trying to keep it together


The launch pad. The end-zone is the light patch on the spoil-mound the other side of the quarry.


Penrhyn Quarry from the Big Zipper launch area


Busy at the top - a Beeb crew were there filming Davina Wave of CBBC's DNN fame


Anna playing it cool.
Every time I see this pic it reminds me of this.


Click here to see the video in fullscreen HD on Vimeo


After the truck-ride back down to meet Ella the omnivores in our party filled up with excellent cholesterol-burgers from the van down at the site office. Sadly, the party's veggie had to go without.

Verdict: Top day out. Highly recommended. Great burger-van.

North Wales 2013 – Sunday – Lazing in Llanberis

Posted by on July 23rd 2013 in Great Escapes, Summer Holidays

Sunday was hot from the start. We weren't feeling sufficiently energetic for a mountain-walk and it was too hot for a beach-trip. We decided that we'd head for Llanberis for ice-creams and a trip on the Llanberis Lake Railway. The prospect of ice-cream was sufficient incentive for a cottage-evacuation and we were soon on the road, stopping only for a quick pic of Snowdon etc. from Llynnau Mymbyr:


Obligatory Snowdon pic


After much cursing about many inconsiderately-parked (and often apparently just dumped in the carriageway) cars around Pen-y-pass we hauled-up at the car-park near Dolbadarn Castle. After buying the rail tickets we scoffed sarnies on the station platform until the train arrived. Lots of pics were taken during the journey, Anna shared my camera and managed to take some intriguing images (I've credited her shots accordingly):


Mind the gap... twixt loco and carriages


The other Tryfan


Dolbadarn Castle below Derlwyn


Snowdon group beyond Llyn Padarn


 Shaken, not stirred
(Pic by Anna)


 The end really is nigh


Cliff and Shadows not singing "Summer Holiday"
(Pic by Anna)


Those Ents can't half shift when they're angry
(Pic by Anna)


A fine display of dodgy shorts
(Pic by Anna)


Totally barking


On track


Provisional driver




Footplate poser


Some of us were a tad more reserved


Going round the bend


After the train journey we made for the castle. The route over the river, through the trees and up the small hill was delightful:


A rise


A Brownie




Aligned. Mostly.


Dolbadarn Castle




Fair enough




Llyn Peris Power Station below Elidirs Fawr and Fach


Hole in the wall


We broke the journey back to the cottage with another short stop beside Llynnau Mymbyr:


Snowdon etc, again






We were back at the cottage quite early and weren't ready for a cooked meal. Me and Chris left the kids in front of the telly while we went for a short stroll around nearby Rhôs Quarry. The buildings have gone downhill (not literally) since I was last there (Summer 1983). I assume that the buildings' materials have been plundered recycled for restoration projects (such as the cottages in which we were staying), as there were few of the original roofing-slates left. Nevertheless it's still an interesting site with the quarry itself now hidden behind trees that weren't there 30 years ago:


More derelicts for restoration?


The old and the new. Progress isn't always good.




Rhôs Quarry




Later that evening the skies above the cottage were interesting - despite the low-level calm, high-level winds were whisking and shearing clouds and contrails into fantastic shapes, and the darkening background went through many colours before setting on a deep blue:












We turned in relatively early  - Monday was going to be interesting - we'd set up the final instalment of Ella's 18th birthday pressie :mrgreen:

North Wales 2013 – Friday/Saturday – The day we went to Bangor

Posted by on July 22nd 2013 in Great Escapes, Summer Holidays

Given the task of finding a place to stay in Snowdonia looked like it was going to be a bit of an ordeal. The remit was: cottage, quiet, remote yet close to sufficient activities to keep the kids happy, close to some interesting mountain walks, within a couple of hours' drive of a beach, and fairly close to Bangor and Menai Bridge where Chris was a Maths undergrad.

In the end the task was a doddle. Choose a mountain (Moel Siabod), use Google to find a nearby cottage (Siabod Holiday Cottages near Pont Cyfyng), all sorted in ten minutes. I passed the details to Chris and let her do the rest.

Why Moel Siabod? Well, it's the best mountain in Wales, bar none. And I know it fairly well - I spent over eight weeks mapping it in the minutest detail for my B.Sc. Geology thesis.

Why Siabod Holiday Cottages? Apart from the fact that the price was right, it looked like the place had everything we'd ever need. Oh, and at about 850ft we'd have a significant altitude-advantage over the valley-starters when we got go up the mountain. We chose Ty Llewelyn, the middle one of three in a row that was derelict the last time I walked past. The recent restoration and renovation of these cottages has been done to a very high standard and the facilities and welcome were second to none. I'd recommend the cottages to anyone, the place is exceptional.

Rather than sit in a roasting car jammed in with all of the other holiday traffic on the A5 on Saturday, we chose to book an extra night and execute our getaway plan straight after school-time on Friday. It turned out to be a good idea, the traffic was light and driving in the evening was much better than braving the midday weekend sun. We were greeted by the owners on arrival, and soon we were installed after making inroads into the welcome-pack (tea, coffee, chocolate, Bara Brith, Welsh Cakes, cookies, shortcakes, sweets...) We had a chill-out night with much moderately-loud music, taking advantage of the fact that the other two cottages were unoccupied that night.

Saturday was hot and clear from the start. The others had a lie-in, I went outside for a mooch around the grounds and a play with the camera:


360+ pano: cottage-to-cottage via Carneddau and Llugwy


The same view in a temperamental scrolly-thing


The track to Moel Siabod


Hawthorn and Foxgloves




A lonely cloud over Carnedd Llewelyn


 Dôl-gam campsite


 Between a rock and a hard place?


Standing stone


The cottages use renewable energy technology (but NOT wind-power!) Heat for underfloor heating, radiators and all of the hot water is generated by Air to Water Heat Pumps. I soon learned that standing in front of the units' exhaust fans was a good thing - the strong flow of heat-depleted air was better than any air-con unit.

When the others surfaced we decided to have a drive out to get some supplies. We headed off up the A5, stopping briefly to take in the views:


Tryfan. I told the kids that we would be going up the clearly-visible Heather Terrace. They weren't amused.


We pushed on through Bethesda and Bangor and over the Straits to Menai Bridge. After parking up we went for a snack followed by a stroll to Church Island's St. Tysilio's Church where Luke was christened:


St. Tysilio's Church





Up on the hill is the war-memorial from where there are fine views of the bridges and The Swellies:


Menai Suspension Bridge


Pont Britannia


Strong current in The Swellies


After doing a supermarket-sweep in Bangor we got back to the cottage just before sundown. After the evening meal it was camera-time again:


Carneddau evening


Moon and Moel Siabod


After that we retired in good cheer, mainly due to the lashings of cider that we'd brought back from Bangor  8-)

Pin the tail #7

Posted by on July 20th 2013 in Great Escapes, Just for fun

Friday's pic:


Wildcamp walk-out - early-morning reflections in the Llyn.

Pin the tail #6

Posted by on July 19th 2013 in Great Escapes, Just for fun

Thursday's pic:


Wildcamp - Moon over a distant Crimea Pass.


Just to help out the strugglers, here are two supplementary pics from Tuesday's walk up the mountain featured in Pin the tail #1:





Pin the tail #5

Posted by on July 19th 2013 in Great Escapes, Just for fun

Wednesday's pic:



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