Saturday, 23 July 2011

St Justinians to Strumble Head

With Andy at the end of student marking and the need for more outdoors stuff we agreed the period of 18th July to 22 July 2011 to "get out there".  The loose plan was for two days of backpacking and two days of open boating.

The forecast for the Monday was dire and we sat tight, planning our forays onto the Pembrokeshire Coastal path and canoeing on the Cleddau Estuary.

We set off on Tuesday on our agreed plan to drive to Strumble Head and catch buses to St David's and on to St Justinian's and then  walk back.  The cost of the buses was reasonable (free for me as a person of a certain age living in Wales).

St Justinians

At St Justinians there were lots of tourists about with two boats already full for the trips to Ramsay and the surrounding area.  In my younger days we used to kayak out to Ramsay for the even younger guns to play on the whitewater caused by the rocks known as "The Bitches".

We started walking about 1315 and stopped about 15 minutes later for lunch taking in the beautiful scenery.  We soon walked past the hills of Carn Llidi, Carnedd Llethr, Carn Perfedd and Carn Penberry.  From a distance these hills look quite big, but in reality they are not.  Although we did not climb them, they are worth exploring as the views over Ramsey and the coast are fabulous.


At Abereiddy we watched the brave souls jumping from the disused quarry buildings into the "Blue Lagoon"  I was able to regale Andy with my brave attempts of this pastime, although I recall it was more like Tom and Jerry than a skillful leap.

Blue Lagoon

It was now time to look for a camp spot before reaching Porhgain, which we did on a nice flat space away from the path.  I had my new backpacking tent for its first outing - a Go-Lite Shangri La 1- which was easy to pitch and it withstood some strong winds and a burst of rain.

Camp spot and new toy

We slept well and were away the next day by about 0830.  Unfortunately we arrived at Porthgain before 0930 when the Sloop Inn commenced breakfasts, still we had already eaten our usual breakfast of muesli and coffee.

View on way to Porthgain


On our journey north we met a few fellow walkers who walked on the Monday and the weather was as forecast and they got soaked.

We passed near to Trefin with a refreshment break at Abercastle and lunch on the beach at Abermawr.  From here the coastal path becomes a little wilder and a few more ups and downs.  The lighthouse at Strumble Head could be seen but it was still a long way to go.

Near Trefin

Natural Arch


Almost French

View on way to Abermawr


Stunning rock and steep climb!

Near Pwll Deri

Irish Ferry heading to Wales

For those who use Youth Hostels you need to put the one at Pwll Deri on your list as this has a magnificent situation, right on the coast  with expansive views looking south down the coast.  It cannot be far now to our car?  This last bit hugs the coast and seems to take forever to reach Strumble Head, but I think this was tiredness talking.

Another great two days. I am not sure about longer trips but perhaps with lesser mileage the old body would survive.  Anyway tomorrow we start two days open boat canoeing with the boat carrying our kit and no need to be thinking about "light weight", we can even carry some beer!

Guess who has seen the "light"

Monday, 2 May 2011

Elan Valley Backpacking Trip

Following last years "toe in the water" experiment with backpacking I was looking forward to continuing this chapter of my outdoor pursuits.
My brother-in-law, Andy and I discussed the possibility of a trip over the May Day Bank Holiday. I suggested a couple of trips where we could meet half way between Carmarthen and Chester where Andy lives.  We settled on the Elan Valley and to follow a walk from the Cicerone book "Backpackpackers Britain - Wales. The forecast was to continue to be fine if not a bit windy.

We met at the visitor centre at 0945 and checked in with the centre staff to leave our cars overnight - they require names and addresses and phone numbers just in case of problems. So all packed, off we set.

We crossed over below the Caban -Coch Dam to the south side of the reservoir and were soon climbing up alongside the forestry.

 At the top we stopped for a breather and some refreshment.

 The route continued along side the wood and down to the end of Caban-Coch.

  Here there is a renovated old Welsh Long House known as Llanerch Cawr.  The last word meaning "giant"  Hopefully we will not meet him!  The route then follows near the Afon Claerwen which has a nice waterfall along its way.

  The byway has unfortunately been cut up by trail bikes and has a number of deep puddles, which must be even deeper in normal Welsh weather. The route is also popular with mountain bikers with legs like pistons.  We stopped for lunch before reaching the dam at Claerwen Reservoir.

The route to the north of the reservoir is a rough metalled road where we met a number of 4*4 trucks and trail bikes - very dusty!  This part of the walk was a bit of a plod but the views across the reservoir helped.  At the end of the reservoir we then turned north at Esgair Gwar-y-ty and onto Esgair Cynion.

Tiredness was now telling and we looked for a suitable camp spot.  The north easterly wind was strong and there was little shelter.  We managed to find a spot beneath some crags, erected the bivvies and cooked our evening meals and turned in well before 2100.

The high winds continued throughout the night but our bivvies gave us shelter if not a little noisy.

We broke camp on Sunday and were on our way at 0800. The wind was still blowing and somewhat chilly.  This area would need good navigation skills in misty weather and wet underfoot.  Luckily we had none of those problems.

Our route followed the byway which I understand is known as the Monks trod.  There are marker poles along the route but the comfort of these stop roughly opposite the large farm which appears on the left (Glanhirin). However the path is obvious if not a little wet in places. Eventually Craig Goch reservoir appears on your right.

 The route continues on down to Pont ar Elan where you join the reservoir.

The water levels were low and we walked along the waters edge on soft shingle. If you had to walk on the bank side it looked like a very wet proposition.

At the dam at the end of the reservoir we took the path which used to be the old tramway used by the builders of these reservoirs but not before examining a lovely vintage Bentley.

The next reservoir is Penygarreg and the most picturesque.  We stopped here for lunch.

 At the end of this reservoir we crossed to the west side of Garreg Ddu reservoir walking through the woods  We managed a good deed for the day and rescued a lamb who had managed to get its head stuck in a wire fence.  The grass is not always greener on the other side!

and onto the bridge which takes you back to Caban Goch reservoir and the visitor centre.  Here we celebrated our trip with hot drinks and cake.

Heres hoping to more trips in similar weather.