Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year

A Happy New Year to all readers of my blog. I hope all 3 of you have a great 2010!

Last walk of the year

A New Years Eve walk in snow and ice! What better, invigorating end to the year?

We set out early this morning and headed towards the Beacons with a few routes in mind. What we hadn't planned on was the amount of snow on some of the side roads. The road from Pontsticill towards Taf Fechan Forest started off okay, but become more snow laden as we drove North. We eventually (after getting stuck temporarily in a small car park south of the Neuadd reservoirs) settled on parking at the north end of Pontsticill reservoir. We then decided to take a route up onto a hill that neither of us had been up before, Pant-y-Creigiau - not particularly high at 565m but it meant we were beneath the clouds and there were some great views.

On the map at least, it didn't look a particularly taxing route, but it turned out to be tough going due to the conditions, both underfoot and the relentless wind on the exposed sections.

As well as snow, everything was encrusted with ice - the trees, the grass, the trig point, my face! It really was quite picturesque. A real enjoyable walk to end the year with.

Now, please excuse me, I have an appointment with 15 bottles of cold Budweiser.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Boxing Day blowout

Finally got back out onto the Brecon Beacons for a walk today, boxing day, to burn the turkey off and enjoy the.....f***ing rain! After over a week of freezing temps and snow, it decides to warm up and rain. Still, walkers don't moan about a little precipitation, do they? Managed to try out a few xmas pressies too - a Lowe Alpine Hat, sealskin gloves and the old Gorillapod! All performed admirably, apart from the hat making me look like a complete dork. I think that's more to do with my face than the product though.

Nicholls, his son Henry and their gorgeous 15 week old Speagle (a cross between a Spaniel and a Beagle!) called Lily, were the company. We did a simple 'up to Corn Du from the Storey Arms and back' which was enough for both Dog (not me, the 4 legged one) and Henry. The winds were freezing on top and the poor dog was shivering so she got wrapped up in a fleece and carried along.

A few pics.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Surely you can't grow that here?

Not had a lot to blog about lately as the weather has put paid to all outdoors activity - almost. The TV news said it had rained every single day in November here in Wales. I can't ever remember it being this dry.Anyway, thought I'd take the chance, whilst nowt else worth mentioning is going on, to post a photo or two of a few gardens in the UK, that look anything but. All the following photos were taken in private gardens in the UK. And contrary to what you might think, none of them are in the subtropical southwestern tip of Cornwall. Granted, they aren't in Aviemore either, but it goes to show just what an exotic range of plants can be grown in the UK

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Neolithic Standing Stones

Took a short walk in the Forest Fawr area of the beacons yesterday. Starting at the Forestry Car Park north of Ystradfellte, we planned a short horseshoe taking in the Neolithic Standing Stones of Maen Madoc and Maen Llia alongside the Roman Road, Sarn Helen.

The weather was fair, with strong, cold winds on the tops. First destination was Fan Llia.

Then we headed down into the valley to Maen Llia. From photos on the net, I thought this stone was around 4' tall. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to see it was more like 12'!

After that it was a short, sharp ascent to Fan Nedd. Fromt he summit there were great views of Fan Gyhirych and distant Fan Brycheiniog to the west.

And PenyFan to the East.

Then we headed south went 'offroad' towards the forest to see the second stone of the day.

Maen Madoc is the more famous of the two Neolithic stones in the area, although, in my opinion, not as impressive as Maen Llia. It also stands around 10' tall.

There are some faded inscriptions on the side. It might say 'Dai from Merthyr Woz Ere' but I think it's actually Roman. Pretty impressive stuff to be honest.
And then it was a short stroll back to the carpark with the rain still holding off, much to Tony's dismay!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


We've not had chance this year to get down to our favourite English county, Cornwall!

So, here's a few photos from trips past of some of our favourite haunts in the Duchy...

First up, the atmospheric St Ives. It's unlike any other city/town/village/hamlet in the Uk (that I've visited anyway). There's just a feeling thats generated when visiting that you can only appreciate after you've been there...
The harbour

Porthminster beach. We nearly always stay at a wonderful little hotel called Primrose Valley which is around 30 yards from the beach and ticks all the boxes - food, decor, location, relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff!

And one of St Ives' many charming cobbled streets.
The Minack Theatre is a must visit. Situated on the cliffs overlooking Porthcurno beach, it was the life vision of Rowena Cade and must be one of the most original tourist attractions in Great Britain.
The aforementioned Porthcurno beach is simply breathtaking. I'll shut up as a picture tells a thou....etc.

And the view from the Minack.

I'm a big fan of the gardens and nurseries in Cornwall. Trevena Cross near Helston always has an excellent selection of tree ferns and ground ferns. It's where my wallet usually gets emptied and my wife usually gets bored.
Cornwall is probably the premier UK climate for exotic plants and gardens. Trebah is one I never tire of visiting. It's a little more commercial than some of the less frequented 'gems' but is beautiful all the same.
These Dicksonia antarctica almost look too pristine, but they work so well in this setting.

And finally, the wonderful St Michael's Mount. Quintessentially Cornish, like a large pasty dropped in the middle of the bay.

Sunday, 18 October 2009


I've suddenly become fascinated in Redwoods - the giant kind! An excellent article in National Geographic (first time I've ever bought this publication) led to some googling and the discovery of a website focusing on Redwoods in the UK. It lists different trees all over the country, but Gwent (or what was Gwent) was noticable by its absence from the list.

I was pretty sure that our local Country Pak, one Tredegar House, was home to a number of Redwoods. Armed with the description of the needles in my mind, and my beautiful son, we set off on Saturday morning for a walk, a kick of the footy, and a redwood hunt at Tredegar Park.

Yes, I was right. There are several, in fact, well over a hundred Sequoiadendron giganteum (Giant Sequoia or Giant Redwood - the other large American species being Sequoia sempervirens) growing in the grounds of Tredegar house. They really are awesome trees, and these are just babies compared to the titans growing in California. My son now thinks I'm a tree-hugger! :)