Tuesday, 18 August 2015

111-114 - Parts of East Anglia - 23rd to 25th June 2015

There are a several of my highpoints which always cause people to ask questions and it tends to be those in East Anglia, The reason is the fact that most of East Anglia is as flat as a pancake but even the flattest places have high points so it this was my opportunity to get those ticked off my list. I travelled up from my home in Portsmouth and around London heading for my first or 4 high points. the county of Suffolk is divided into 2 halves, there is Suffolk and Suffolk East. Eventually I was onto the country roads of Suffolk and I arrived at my destination. It was actually difficult to get close to the highest point of Suffolk East because it lies within Wattisham Airfield, as you can imagine airfields are always difficult to gain access to however this one is even worse because it is an Army airfield so there was no hope.
Wattisham airfield

I found spot near an industrial estate near the Wattisham airfield fence, this spot was about as close as I could get to the highest point of Suffolk East so it would have to do and at just 91 metres above sea level I was not really going to be that far off that height from where I was standing.

Great Wood
Next stop was the highest point of Suffolk, it was about a 45 min drive from the last stop along some pretty bendy small roads. It was fairly easy to find and finally I found myself at Great wood near the village of Chedburgh just to the south of Bury St Edmunds. This was another fairly low high point at just 128 metres above sea level, at least this one had a view over some fields. My next stop was my campsite for the night which was about a 90 minute drive to the north near the town of Sheringham on the north coast of Norfolk.

Great Wood
The next day I was off to find my third highpoint of the trip, this one was going to be the highest of my 4 highpoints and it can be found just near the town of Cromer and is the highest point of Norfolk, It was another easy to find high point and is called Beacon Hill, it has fairly impressive views over the sea which would be even better in the winter without all the leaves on the trees. I had a bit of a wander around here and eventually headed into Cromer for a look around and then on to Sheringham for a trip on the North Norfolk Steam Railway (well worth the visit by the way, I really recommend it). Finally it was back to the campsite for an evening next to the campfire.

Beacon hill
The next morning it was time to head home but there was one more high point to visit on the way, I took a small diversion towards the west and then south towards Ely for the highest point of the Isle of Ely. The Isle of Ely is not actually an island however it was surrounded by fens and marshland in the past so was once an island, it is no longer a county however it is still on my list and needed to be done.

On the way to the high point I suffered a bit of a puncture however I quickly changed it for the spare and was back on my way to find the high point in the village of Haddenham. This high point is one of my lowest yet at just 39 metres above sea level. I was surprised it was so low being so far inland. after stopping off here is was back on the road to home after a nice few days in the northern parts of East Anglia.
Cromer Pier
Haddenham village

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

108-110 - Slough, Reading and Bracknell - 28th May 2015

There are a group of highpoints about a 75 minute drive away from me that are not the most exciting high points however they still need to be ticked off the list so I was at a loss one day and decided to head off to get some of them done.

The highpoints in question sit in an area between Reading and Windsor, there are 5 in total and I decided I would do at least 3 of them today so I headed off in the Morning to find them. My first highpoint was probably the least exciting, it was the highest point of Slough and can be found to the north of the town on the side of a road near a residential area, it was fairly easy to find and I didn't stay long but at least I could tick East Burnham Park at 51 metres off my list, I was then back on the road to find number 2 of the day.

The next highpoint meant me driving along the M4 to the other side of Reading, The highpoint sat in the Tilehurst area of Reading as it is dominated by a huge water tower, it took me longer to get to this one due to a few road work but on arrival I took some photos and picked up some lunch, that was Park Lane at 103 metres,  the highest point of Reading ticked off the list, now it was time to head off to my last highpoint of the day.

Back down the M4 and heading south towards Bracknell this time, I passed the town and headed into Bracknell forest where I parked at the Lookout Discovery centre car park, it was PACKED, it was currently half term so there were kids everywhere but I found a parking place and headed off to find the high point. It was probably a 30 minute walk to the highest point, it was right in the middle of the forest but it was a nice day and the walk was lovely, I travelled along several different paths and eventually got to the highest point, there was an area fenced off near by which I think was the actual highest point but I got as near as I could, This final high point was called Surrey Hill and was 130 metres high. It was then a walk back to the car and a drive back home again.

Bracknell forest is worth a visit if you are in the area but the other 2 highpoints were as expected not very exciting, the highest point of Slough is actually my 5th lowest highpoint to visit but at least I managed to tick them off my list.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

107 - Holyhead mountain - Anglesey - 21st May 2015

In May I attended a work related event in Oswestry, Shropshire and I thought that this would be a good stepping stone to visit another highpoint in the area, after much deliberation I decided that after my work event I would drive across Wales to the far north west corner and visit the Isle of Anglesey for a few days. I decided early on that I would be camping at the work event in Oswestry so on the morning after the work event on the 20th May I packed up my tent and headed off to North Wales. I stopped off in the town of Oswestry on the way to pick up some supplies and have some breakfast in a small cafe and then I was off again for the drive through Snowdonia national park and across the Menai Strait and on to Holy Island where my campsite was situated. 

The campsite I was staying at was one of the best I have ever visited, It was peaceful, had AMAZING views and had excellent facilities with breakfast available if they are needed, I was actually the only camper onsite for most of the time so it was really wonderful. After setting up my camp I decided to go for a walk, this took me out towards the coast near South stack and it was here I caught my first good views of Holyhead mountain, I also got to see the 206 year old South Stack lighthouse perched precariously on the cliffs overlooking the Irish sea. I have always been a lover of lighthouses and it was good to see 2 of my passions in 1 place, a lighthouse and a highpoint. I eventually wandered back to my campsite and got some rest ready for my busy day ahead.
The lighthouse on the left and the highest point on the right.

The next morning I woke and had some breakfast then I headed off for an explore of the South Stack lighthouse. It was not far away and I parked at a RSPB information centre, it was here I discovered the vast array of birds available to see on the cliffs in the area, I was very excited to learn that puffins had been seen recently AND the lighthouse was open to visitors. The RSPB shop had binoculars for hire so I got a pair and headed off down the path to the lighthouse with a rough idea of the locations of the puffins. The path zigzagged down the edge of the cliffs and I kept stopping to search for those elusive puffins but no matter how much I searched the cliffs I couldn't see any, further down the path I stopped and got a good view of the cliffs and still there were no puffins, there were thousands of other birds in the skies and on the rocks and also below on the sea but no sign of puffins, I had been warned that they may be nesting in their burrows. I searched and searched and eventually started moving my search to the thousands of birds on the waters below and then eventually I spotted the familiar shape of a puffin on the water, in fact there were 3 of them, I was so happy to have seen the birds, real puffins in the wild, incredible.

After a while I headed off for a tour of the lighthouse, it was very interesting being able to climb the steps up to the top of the tower, it has quite an interesting history and is well worth a visit if you are in the area, just be prepared for the long climb up and down the cliff path. After the lighthouse It was time to climb my highpoint, I could have climbed it from the lighthouse but I had already decided to drive across to the other side of the mountain and start from another location.

The Holyhead Breakwater Country park is a 106 acre park on the site of a former quarry and is the perfect location to start a climb up Holyhead mountain. The country park has tea rooms and an art exhibition, it also has various memorials, old ruins and a few lakes. I parked in the cr park and headed straight off up the slopes of the mountain. It was not going to be a long walk, I was going to be at the top of the mountain in about 30-40 mins. The routh I walked took me through some residential areas and then onto the rocky grey terrain of the mountain itself. The path climber steadily for a while and then before long it became steeper for one last section and I was then at the top, at 220 metres (722 feet) Holyhead mountain is the highest point of the island of Anglesey. 

The view over Holyhead
From the top of Holyhead mountain the views were amazing, it clearly is the highest point for miles around because you can see all the way to snowdonia in the east and far out across the Irish sea to the west and south, apparently on a clear day you can see the Isle of Man and the mountains of Ireland. I stopped at the top for sometime having some lunch and drinking tea, also catching up with people back at home, the strange thing about my trips is that I often lose phone signal at the campsites I stay at but then I get an excellent phone signal at the top of mountains so I often get a barrage of texts and messages from various people. 

It seemed quite a busy highpoint, there were a few visitors to the top while I was sitting having my lunch, I stayed for about 30-40 mins and then headed back down the mountain a different route back to the country park. when I was back at the country park I stopped off for a look around the art exhibition and for a slice of tea and cup of cake (or something like that), then I was back off to the campsite to relax and have my dinner and sleep before my long trip back home the next day.

Holyhead mountain was an excellent climb and I really loved Holy island, it has some beautiful scenery and lovely beaches. well worth a visit at any time of the year. I can highly recommend the campsite, it has been one of the best I have visited, they also do B&B if you are not into roughing it -  http://www.blackthornleisure.co.uk/.

Holyhead mountain

Saturday, 11 July 2015

106 - Brown Clee Hill - Shropshire - 29th April 2015

In late April it was time to get another highpoint done so headed off to the hills of Shropshire to a campsite near the village of Church Stretton in the Shropshire hills, It was a beautiful campsite in a small valley between some huge rolling hills, I set up my camp and after a cup of tea I decided to head off walking amongst these hills for the evening.

The summit of yearlet
I headed up the valley and along the river, crossing a small bridge and passing a small farm house and slowly made my way up the slopes of one of the hills to the top, I have since discovered this hill was called Yearlet, and from the top I could see for miles around, including the highest point of Shropshire to the east, the Wrekkin to the north and several other high points on the horizon. This was an amazing hill to climb and not one on my list of highpoint but I felt it was worth mentioning it. after a short stop at the top it was time to head back down the hill to have dinner and get some rest.

The summit of yearlet
The next morning I headed off towards the east to find my high point, it was a 30 minute drive to my parking place near the village of Ditton Priors, I headed off straight up the hill, I knew it was not going to be a long walk, probably just an hour at the very maximum. The path started off zig zagging up the hill a little bit and the views to the east were instantly great to look at, there were a few benches here to sit and admire the view. Continuing along the path there was a lot of forestry work going on and it all looked a bit of a mess but it has to be done, I soon turned off the main path and up a side path through a forest eventually coming to a gate and a flock of sheep.

I managed to get through the sheep without disturbing them too much and then I continued up the path, it was getting steeper now and some old mine ruins appeared to my right. The path then went up and over a ridge and joined a road which I followed all the way to the top.The summit of Brown clee hill is dominated by air traffic control towers, there is also a toposcope on what looks to be the highest point, Its not actually on the highest point, that can be found hiding behind one of the radio masts amongst the heather. The highest point sits at 540 metres above sea level.

I stayed on top of Brown clee for a while, there were some great views for miles around and it was handy having the toposcope to point out some of the highlights, I had lunch and explored the actual highest point. There was also a small pond on top of the hill, it always amazes me when I find substantial bodies of water on the top of hills. It was now time to head back down the hill but not before having a quick explore of the old mine buildings.

The mine sits on the eastern side of Brown clee hill and for some reason I seem to think it was England's highest coal mine, I can't actually find out if that is true or not but I must have read it somewhere. The mine is now just a collection of walls but it was quite interesting to see, all the shafts had been filled in so it was quite safe and there were a lot of sheep exploring the buildings too. It was however soon time to head back down the hill.

The walk back was quick, I was soon passing through the flock of sheep and past the forestry works, another stop off at the benches to admire the view and finally back at the car. I still had plenty of the day ahead of me and I wanted to pop to Ludlow for a quick look around (and buy something for dinner), Ludlow was lovely, it has a castle and lots of old buildings so worth a look if you are in the area.

It was now time to head back to the campsite but not before stopping off at a museum I noticed while on my way to the campsite yesterday, it was in the village of Craven Arms and what caught my eye were the words 'come see our Wooly Mammoth'. I parked up and went into the Shropshire hills discovery centre and there he was, a real woolie mammoth skeleton which had been found in the area, it was incredible and huge, a great way to end a lovely day of climbing hills.

Brown clee hill was definitely worth a visit, it has great views and is not too hard to climb, I can recommend the campsite too so check it out - http://www.smallbatch-camping.co.uk/

The Mammoth Skeleton

Friday, 15 May 2015

105 - Garth Hill - Cardiff - 15th April 2015

The fog below
Approaching the highpoint
Garth Hill is the highest point of Cardiff and lies just to the north west of Cardiff near the town of Taff's Well. Every so often I venture into South Wales to attend a Balloon modelling event (I am a balloon twister if you are wondering). This time I decided to extend the visit and climb a high point with an overnight stay at a friends house to make things easier.

I set off for the village of Taff's Well fairly early (as my friends had to go to work), it was only a 25 minute drive so not too far away, The fog was very thick on the way to the hill but I eventually found a nice place to park on the slopes of Garth hill got myself ready for my short walk. the fog was still thick when I left the car but I left it below me half way up the slopes of the hill, it was not too far to walk to the top, I tried to make the walk a little longer by taking a long route but even then I was reaching the top after about 25 minutes. At the top I couldn't see too much as the fog was still thick below me but above me there were amazing blue skies and it was very warm, the first really warm day of the year so far which was lovely.

The highest point of Garth hill was actually an ancient burial mound, there was a trig point on top which I sat next to and had some breakfast and a drink. While sitting on the top of Garth hill I was passed by 2 joggers, a walked and many cows, it was quite busy on top of the hill. After my short break I took a different route down the slopes of the hill back to my car ready for my long drive back home.

It was a short hill walk but a really nice one to do, it is a lovely hill to visit if you are in the area and I can imagine the views would be amazing if it was not foggy.

Garth Hill - highpoint number 105 - 307 metres

Thursday, 14 May 2015

104 - Burley Moor - Leeds - 24th March 2015

The view east

Looking south east towards Leeds
For the past couple of years in March I travel up to Leeds to attend a balloon modelling event, Last year I managed to visit several high points on my way home, This time I wanted to visit a high point the day before the event, I was going to visit the highest point in Leeds itself. I took the long drive up to Leeds on the Monday night and stayed at my Travelodge in Keighley. The next morning I had breakfast and then I headed off to find my hill, hill, it was not too far to drive and not far from the small town on Ilkley.

Near the Highest point
I parked the car at a small parking area near the town of Ilkley and I headed off to find my hill, The path started off very easy and I had my route planned however it was not long before the path disappeared and I was left wondering which route to take, what made matters worse was the fact that there were nesting birds in the area and I was not allowed to stray from the path. I decided to use my maps to stick as close to the path as possible and hope that I was not going to disturb any birds. it was just a short walk through the heather until I picked up the path again and headed on my way towards the high point. I soon arrived at the highest point of Leed which was located near a small mound on Burley moor. This highpoint is one of those which is NOT actually the highest point in the area as the border of Leeds runs across the side of the hill so rather than stop here I decided to head off and explore some of the surrounding moorland, at least I got to tick another high point off my list.

The Stone Circle
I followed a major track for some time passing a few people, then I headed off onto a smaller track where I soon came across an old bronze age stone circle. This Stone circle is called the Twelve Apostles and is one of those monuments that no one actually knows its purpose. I decided to stop off here for some lunch which seemed to be the perfect place. it was dry and sunny so it was a great time to stop and take in the view.

After a spot of lunch I continued along the small track, this soon became a stone path and I followed this for some time until I came to a small seating area, In one of the walls of this area there was a letterbox type gadget, this was all part of a poetry trail that had been installed, The letter box gadget had 2 slots, 1 for Poems to be put into and the second for poems to be distributed (with the turn of a handle). . What an incredible idea this was, I turned the handle and out popped a hand written poem, after reading this I popped it back into the upper slot, turned the handle and out popped a second poem, I spent some time here reading poems and putting them back into the box for future readers,

After my time at the poetry corner I headed back down the slopes towards the car park but not before passing a massive rock structure called the Cow and Calf, this was covered with climbers and there were lots of little trails up to the top of the rocks. I had a nice climb around the Cow and Calf and then headed back to my car for the short drive back to my hotel.

So Burley Moor was my 104th hill, the highest point of Leeds at 342 metres high.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

103 - Helvellyn - Westmorland - 10th March 2015

It was Christmas 2014 and as a Christmas gift I had purchased for Nathan a hotel break to the Lake District, 2 nights in a lovely guest house in the beautiful town of Windermere. Now at the time It was not my intention to use this as an opportunity to climb a mountain however Nat asked if that is what I wanted to do, I said no however if he wanted to we could go and climb a mountain, I showed him some photos of the local high point to climb and he instantly said it was something we had to do. 

Helvellyn lies a few miles north of Windermere, Nat and I arrived at a small car park at the southern end of Thirlmere (a reservoir), we parked next to a small church, I knew there was something special about this church but couldn't remember at the time, when I returned home I remembered it is the last remaining building of the village of Wythburn, back in the 1890s the valley was flooded to create Thirlmere.

After parking the car and collecting up our backpacks we headed off straight up the mountain, the climb upwards started off almost straight away with a straight path through the woods, there was a lot of forestry work taking place in the surrounding woodland meaning many of the paths were closed off to us but the main path up Helvellyn was fine. after a short distance we passed through a gate and out of the woodland into open land,  the path zig zagged slightly here and soon we had our first views of Thirlmere and the surrounding mountains, also ahead of us high up on the mountain we could see lots of snow. 

The path we had chosen seemed to climb upwards all the time, there was never a point where it flattened out so it was pretty hard work however we carried on up the path and eventually between some rocks where we saw our first snow, it was only a little bit around 12 inches long but it was pretty exciting as we rarely get snow in the south where I live and this would be my first high point to actually have snow. 

Further up the path we encountered some much larger patches of snow and we couldn't resist a quick run around in it, way below us we could see a few planes flying over the lake, one of them was a military jet and even from up on the mountain it was very loud. 

Eventually our path joined a larger path and we were not too far from the top, the path had flattened out a bit, on our left to the west were some magnificent views over the lake and onwards to the mountains, to our right we could now see plenty of snow clinging onto the steep slopes of the mountain and the well known Striding edge leading up to the top of Helvellyn. 

It was not long before we had reached the top of Helvellyn, at 950 metres it was the highest point of the historic county of Westmorland and the third highest mountain in England, At the top it was the first time we really noticed how cold it was, the wind was stronger at the top and we were really starting to notice the bite so we didn't stick around too long. From the top we were pretty amazed to see some skiers on the snowy slopes below us and after a quick explore and a few photos we headed back down the mountain as fast as we could go, the wind was now blowing right in our faces so we really felt the cold however it didn't take us too long to escape from the wind and head back down the path.
We retraced our steps for the whole walk back, because of the forestry work taking place in the woods below us it meant we could not do a circular walk but this didn't matter as the views were pretty amazing, they were worth seeing again. Halfway down Helvellyn we stopped off for a quick spot of lunch and a drink, then we were on our way again back to our car waiting for us in the car park. 

Helvellyn was an awesome mountain to climb, I loved climbing it and the snow added an extra bit of fun. I would highly recommend a walk on Helvellyn, its not too difficult to climb and the views are incredible.