Thursday, 20 March 2014

82-85 - The Chiltern's - 12th March 2014

Foggy Morning
It was day two of my camping trip to the Chiltern hills and I woke up in my tent bright and early, the weather forecast was due to be bright sunshine but when I unzipped my door and peered out the amazing view had disappeared into the thick fog. It was a very eerie as I couldn't really see too much, just the thick fog.

I cooked some eggy bread for breakfast and had some tea and then headed off to the first location, it was only a 20 min drive past the town of Tring, when I arrived it was still very thick fog. The high point I was planning to visit was meant to be the best of the four I was going to see today and I really couldn't see anything so I decided to change my plan and come back to this one later in the day when the fog had cleared.

Whitehill, Luton
Driving east from the Tring area I headed along a few large roads for about 20 mins and then through the town of Hemel Hempstead, It was here I realised I had been here before, many years ago I worked in the area and I remembered a crazy roundabout system they had. Past Hemel Hempstead I joined the M1 for a few miles and eventually turned off and made my way through the town of Luton, past the airport and along a few roads ending up at the highest point in Luton. This hill is called Whitehill and is 178 mts above sealevel, there was an interesting white house with a turret but there was nothing too special with this high point and it was still a little bit foggy but I could see it was starting to clear now.

Bow Brickhill, Milton Keynes
Next I drove west across the M1 and through Dunstable where I turned right onto the famous Watling street, This street was an ancient Pre Roman road which started in Canterbury and headed off for 277 miles across ancient Britain. I followed Watling street for about 6 or 7 miles turning off near the village of Little Brickhill just south of Milton Keynes. After a little difficulty finding my way (due to some road closures) I managed to park and walk up to the top of Bow Brickhill, the highest point of Milton Keynes, this hill is 171 meters above sea level, not as high as Luton but a little better looking, it was mainly tree covered and quite peaceful except for the roadworks going on in the distance.

Haddington Hill
I didn't stay on this hill for too long, I was soon off to my next location (after a short stop at the camping shop for some more gas). The next 2 high points were both very close to each other so I headed back south past Leighton Buzzard and then to my next hill. Wendover forest is run by the forestry commission and is home to a hill with 2 claims to fame, after parking not too far from the summit I walked the short distance to a small monument marking the top of Haddington Hill, the highest point of the Chiltern hills and the highest point of Buckinghamshire. Haddington hill sits at 267 mtrs above sea level, the highest point of the day. This was a really beautiful location, I went for a walk and ended up sitting in the sun for some time, the fog had cleared and it was now quite warm. I stayed here for a couple of hours and took plenty of photos, it was such a beautiful place and so peaceful.

Wendover Forest
My last high point for the day was about a 15 min drive away to the east, I had to drive along a few small bendy roads but was soon at Pavis Wood, the highest point in Hertfordshire. This high point was not to obvious as it was all pretty flat but thanks to my maps I found the exact location and took some photos, this location is 244 mtrs above sea level. It was now time to head back to the campsite for the evening and that was just a short 10 minute drive away. I finished the day off watching the sunset while cooking my dinner over an open fire.

Pavis Wood
The next morning I packed up my tent and headed off home after a really nice few days away, it was my first camping trip of the year and it was well worth it. The campsite was amazing, the hills were not too bad and the views of the Chiltern's were wonderful. Thanks to Town farm campsite for letting me camp, I really recommend them if your wanting somewhere to pitch your tent.

These 4 hills now bring my total up to 85 out of 236, that is nearly 37% complete.

Wendover Forest

Highest point of the Chiltern hills and Buckinghamshire

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

81 - Bald Hill - Old Oxfordshire - 11th March 2014

The view from Bald Hill car park
It was early March and it had been one of the wettest winters in a long time, things were looking wet almost everywhere and I was wondering if I was ever going to get out to visit some new high points this year. I don't actually mind getting a bit wet but to go camping when its torrential rain and wind is NOT a good idea. I was suddenly excited to see a possible high pressure heading our way and started to look into a camping trip. I picked several locations and started the search for campsites and eventually decided to head to an area about 2 hours north of Portsmouth. I initially wanted to climb 4 high points in the area but after studying the maps for a while I noticed there was a high point that I could visit on the way to the campsite, so here is my trip to Bald Hill (and another bonus high point).

Local nature reserve
Bald hill is not one of the current high points, back in 1974 the counties of the UK were all reshuffled, some counties disappeared and others were created, what this means is that some of the high points were no longer the highest point. when I started this challenge I had to decide whether to climb the original (historic) counties (86 I think) OR the new modern counties (which including a lot of extra unitary authorities comes to around 225ish), so in the end I decided to do all of them and Bald Hill is the historic high point of Oxfordshire.

The top of Bald hill
I left home at 10:30am and headed north up the A3(m) past Petersfield, Guildford and onto the clockwise M25, then up past Heathrow and onto the M40, a short distance after High Wycombe I left the motorway and drove past the village of Stokenchurch (there was a huge concrete pillar/antenna thing here which was quite attractive . . . . not). Eventually I made another turn and arrived at my destination car park near Bald Hill. It was a very handy car park, free and just 500ft from my destination. I walked along a path and found that the hill was far from being bald as it was covered in a woodland, I was soon at the summit of the hill, the actual highest point was hard to find as the whole area was pretty flat.

Town Farm campsite
After a photograph I headed off back to the car park and crossed the road to take a quick look at the views. It was actually a little murky so I could not see too far. It was then time to head off to my campsite which was situated around 45 mins drive away. I headed through lots of little villages eventually coming to the town of Tring and finally to the village of Ivinghoe which is where my campsite was situated.

The Chiltern's

Ivinghoe Beacon
Town farm campsite is a wonderful place, I was met by Tom who showed me to one of the camping fields which I had to myself. The views were stunning, to the north I had miles of view to look at, to the south were the rolling Chiltern hills, then to the east was Ivinghoe Beacon. I pitched up my tent and made a cup of tea, then I decided to head out for a walk before I started my dinner. I walked back through the farm and then up across the road towards the hills. The walk took me through a few fields and then over a style and gradually up the hills eventually coming to the summit of Ivinghoe Beacon.

Ivinghoe Beacon is not on my list of high points which is a shame is its a beautiful location and much nicer than some of the ones I have done recently, I did however decide to give it honorary high point status. I sat on top of the beacon for some time and watched the sun setting, the clouds had cleared by now and the views were stunning. I eventually made my way back down the beacon and back to the campsite where I lit the campfire and made my dinner of beef stew and potato cakes with pancakes for dessert, all made on the open fire. Then it was off to sleep ready for me to visit 4 more high points the next day.

To be continued . . . . . . . .

Friday, 14 March 2014

80 - Blackpool - 24th Feb 2014

Every year in late February I get the chance to visit Blackpool as it is the home to the worlds largest magic convention, I love Blackpool, yes you heard me correctly, I LOVE Blackpool for 4 reasons (here is where I upset the population of Blackpool), the main reason why I love it is that it makes me realise how really good it is in my home town of Portsmouth, Blackpool really makes me see what a good city I live in, I mean its really good here, Blackpool is like a polished turd, in recent years they have spent millions on the Blackpool regeneration, a whole new seafront, new shopping centres and loads more of amazing things, but no matter how much they try to make it look good, no matter how hard they polish it, it's still a turd. The second reason I like Blackpool are the fact it is home to the worlds largest magic convention, Thirdly it is home to some pretty nifty roller coasters and finally( and in this blog most importantly) it has a high point.

Now before we go any further, no, the Tower is NOT the highest natural point in Blackpool, and no, nor is the 'Big One' rollercoaster in the Pleasure beach. The highest point is in fact next to the Warbreck Reservoir about 1.5 miles to the north of the tower. So it was on my way home from the Blackpool Magic Convention I asked my friend Scott (who was driving that weekend) if he would mind me stopping off on the way home at the reservoir for me to take a quick photo.

And to keep you all happy, here I am standing at the giddy height of 34 meters above sea level.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

78-79 - Thurrock and Southend-on-Sea - 22nd January 2014

My first highpoints of 2014 were not going to be a great challenge, I had spent a couple of days at an event in Bishops Stortford and wanted to do something on the way home so I traveled clockwise around the M25 to do the high points of Thurrock and Southend on Sea.

The first stop was the highpoint of Thurrock, there was a handy car park right next to where the highest point was so there was no need to do any climbing (or walking), there was a church here and a few houses, not too far away there was a communications aerial but that was about all. I soon headed off to my next high point but not before making a quick visit to a friend on route.

Roger Daws is a balloon artist and an adventurer, he climbs mountains, hills and rock faces all over the place, I had seen him at the event in Bishops Stortfort and he invited me to pop in for a cup of tea, after this I was soon on my way to visit my second highpoint of the day, This one was the high point of Southend-on-Sea. What can I say about this high point? let me think about how to put this, its was very . . . . flat, yes flat is the word I am looking for, not only for geographical features but for interest too.  The high point was situated within a clump of trees at the end of a residential road, I was lucky to have the official high point pinpointed onto Google maps so that I could use my mobile to find the exact location, it really was flat and about as exciting as watching paint grow (or grass dry?).

Once I had climbed (walked across to) the high point it was time I headed off home, I was soon back on the M25 and over the Dartford crossing, then it was not too long before I was back home after those 2 exhausting climbs (not).

Thursday, 6 February 2014

77 - Dunkery Beacon - Somerset - 7th November 2013

Back in September 2013 I met up with friends Chris and Johnny for a meal, the subject of camping came up and Chris and I decided to plan a camping trip away, The date was set in Early November and the location was chosen, all we had to do was hope for good weather.

November arrived and all I can say is that it was the start of one of the wettest winters I have ever known, I was due to pick up Chris in Bournemouth so I headed off along the M27 and arrived at Chris's house when he arrived home from work. Chris soon packed up all his stuff and we loaded the van up and headed off to Somerset. It took us a few hours to drive there and we arrived after 10pm, When we left Bournemouth it was pretty dry but the closer we got to our destination the wetter it got, Heavy rain was not going to stop us, we found a suitable pitch at the campsite in the Exmoor National park and set up the tent.

The next morning we woke up to a fairly bright morning, Chris kindly cooked breakfast and we got ourselves ready for our climb. We left the campsite and drove the short distance to the local village of Exford where we parked and set off on our walk. We soon left the village and headed north up some country lanes, it was not raining but it was very wet on the roads with streams and puddles everywhere.

We continued further along the road and then through a few fields with sheep for company, then we did a zig zag and were back on another road for a short distance. We soon left the road and were back on a path heading along the side of a hill, the views south were pretty good but we had still not seen our destination yet, It was not long before we saw the distinctive shape of Dunkery beacon ahead of us.

We reached the top of the beacon and spend some time taking photos, we both climbed the huge mound of stones on top and then we found shelter for some lunch. While we were eating I set my camera up for a couple of time lapses, the wind was pretty strong and the clouds were whizzing past, we had an amazing view across the Bristol channel and we could see the south coast of Wales easily, also along the coast to Minehead. We finished our lunch and then a huge black cloud appeared above us, we decided it was time to get moving.

We set off again and passed the stone mound on top of Dunkery beacon and we were soon blown back to shelter behind the stone mound. the wind was much stronger and freezing cold and now the rain had started. we chatted for a moment about what to do and we decided to face the wind and rain and get moving. The wind was right in our faces but once we had climbed down the slopes of the beacon it dies down a little.

The route back took us along the same path and road but then we chose to end up walking a slightly different route, walking down a track and through a gate we were soon amongst the sheep and heather again, eventually we turned off the track and found ourselves walking through a few fields, past an old derelict farm building and then down to a small river. I say it was a small river but it was pretty swollen from all the rain and there was no bridge in sight and no stepping stones so it was a case of making a massive jump across the gap, we both made it.

The last part of our walk took us past a few houses, across a field and finally back into the village and back to the carpark. We had walked 9 miles and we were ready for a warm shower and bite to eat so we headed back to the campsite. after our shower and a change into warm dry clothes we headed back into the Exford for dinner, we had a lovely meal of Lamb and it was nice to see TVs Nick Hewer (I am sure it WAS him).

The next morning we packed up the tent and headed off home, it was an awesome climb and it was great to have some lovely company with Chris, I look forward to climbing another hill with Chris in the future.

Monday, 6 January 2014

76 - Foel Cwmcerwyn - Pembrokeshire - 15th October 2013

In October Nat decided to take a week off and after trying to work out what we were going to do we settled on a caravan holiday to South Wales, We don't own a caravan but instead opted for a holiday park with caravans ready for us to move into for a few days. We left Portsmouth on the Monday morning and made our was along the M27, M3, A34 and the M4 to Swindon, the normal route would carry on along the M4 and across the Severn Bridge into Wales but becaure I own a very small van I get charged Crazy amounts of money to cross, and so it is far cheaper for me to turn off the M4 at Swindon and head up the A419 to Gloucester and then into Wales along the M50. Our Journey through Wales was very scenic, taking us past Abergavenny and Brecon, then on to our destination of New Quay on the west coast of Wales.

Our caravan was lovely and it served us well for the 5 days and 4 nights we were staying, it was October so very quiet in the holiday park, we didn't see many people which was nice and we avoided the main complex in favour of the peace and quiet. The rest of Monday was spent relaxing before our climb the next day.

We awoke on Tuesday morning and had some breakfast then headed south west to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, This Park lies south of Cardigan and to the west of Fishguard and it was here we found the highest point of Pembrokeshire, the mountain knows as Foel Cwmcerwyn. We parked on the mountain road in a car park and headed off towards the summit, the sun was shining but there were a few puddles on the ground, I did risk wearing shorts and I am please I did as it soon became rather warm.

The path first took us along the edge of a plantation of some evergreen trees, then after this we crossed an open heathland for a short distance, this heathland was really wet, lots of puddles to dodge and even a small log bridge to cross, we were soon on a better path and passing through several gates. Our walk so far had been fairly flat but it we soon started the gentle climb and it was warm enough to only have a t-shirt on top (which is good for October in Wales). The path veered to the right and climbed further up and over a smaller hill and then down and up to the summit of our destination, Just before reaching the top a man passed us and warned us that it was very busy at the top, I am not sure what we were expecting, maybe an ice cream van or a hoard of people having a disco, luckily there was just 1 man sending Morse code signals to America with a few more people further down the slopes trying to do some paragliding.

We stayed up at the top of Foel Cwmcerwyn for quite a while, there was a trigpoint on the summit and we sat and had our lunch and drinks (tea for me). A family reached the top while we were sitting and we chatted to them for a while, eventually it was time to pack up and head back down to the car. we took the same route back down, I did think about another route but there were not really many other options so we carried on along the same route and were soon back down crossing the wet marshy heathland and back at the car.

After the mountain we headed to the city of St Mary's, an amazing and tiny village sized city with the largest Cathedral in the UK, well worth a visit and they have some nice cake. Wednesday took us to the National Trust property of Llanerchaeron and then Aberystwyth in the afternoon, on Thursday we headed south to Tenby and the amazing Caldey island with its boat trip, monks and beautiful scenery and Chocolate. On our final day we packed up our belongings and headed home via Cardiff for the Doctor Who Experience and a look around the town, finally heading home across the Severn Bridge (because its free to get out of Wales).

The whole trip had been really amazing with such beautiful scenery, the high point was well worth a visit and we were very lucky to have such beautiful weather for the whole week.     

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

70-75 - The High Points of London Part 4 - 11th October 2013

Back in January I traveled up to London to attempt to visit all the highest points in London in one day with Darren, we had a good try and visiting all 36 of the high points however after a long day we only managed 30, there were 6 to go. I set another date with Darren and on the evening of Thursday 10th October I headed up to stay with Darren ready to visit the last 6 high points the next day.

Crystal Palace in Lambeth
Early on Friday 11th October we left Darren's house in Bermondsey and headed south towards Crystal Palace for the first of 3 high points in the same area. We arrived in Crystal palace and quickly found the highest point of Lambeth, It could be found on the crossroads right next to the old Crystal palace site and not too far from the huge antenna that sits on top of the hill. We both took a few photos and then headed on to our next 2 highpoints which were a short drive just down the road.

Lewisham                           and                           Southwark
The next 2 highpoints were situated both together, these were the highest points of Lewisham and Southwark, they could both be found in the same road, about 10 ft away from each other. We park across the road and walked to the fairly private road roadway where the 2 highpoints could be found. It was a pretty unimpressive location due to the fact that the road was completely surrounded by buildings, on one side were bungalows and on the other side there were garages.

We walked back to the car and drove back to Bermondsey, it was time for a change of transport, we parked not too far from the underground station and then headed north along various underground lines to the Manor house Station. After a short walk we were standing next to Finsbury park and the highest point of Hackney. From Finsbury park it was a short walk back past Manor house and along to Harringay Green lanes overground station where we took a short train ride to Upper Holloway station.

A woman wearing a newspaper
It was now time to finish the London highpoints as the next to were very close to each other, We headed north from the train station and we were soon in Waterlow park and on Highgate hill and the highest point of Islington. After a short time we headed further up the road and arrived at the last of the London high points in Highgate and the highest point of the London borough of Harringay. We had done it, all 36 of the London high points were complete, it had taken us 10 months to do but we finally did it. we celebrated with some cake in a local cake shop and then headed to Highgate Cemetery for a wander around to see some of the amazing graves of the rich and famous.
It was a brilliant day and I am so pleased Darren was able to join me for ALL of the 36 high points of London.
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Karl Marx