Thursday, 4 February 2016

117-119 - Wirral, Halton and Warrington - 30th July 2015

The area around Manchester and Liverpool is full of highpoints to visit so I decided to start ticking those off while combining it with a visit to see a friend who lives in the area. Robin is a fellow entertainer and marathon runner, he lives not too far from Chester so I made plans with him, he offered to give me a lovely guided tour of the city.

Chester really is a lovely place, Robin took me on a walking tour to see all the highlights including the walls, the cathedral, the Roman amphitheatre & gardens and the River Dee. We made use of the park and ride which was an excellent service and spent several hours in the city. The Cathedral was amazing and well worth a visit, they had a themed walk around the buildings based upon the stories of Alice in Wonderland. Away from the cathedral I really liked one of the foot bridges over the River Dee, it was a suspension bridge and was very photogenic. The visit to Chester was finished with a nice cake and cup of tea in the top floor cafe in Debenhams.

Poll Hill
The first of my 3 high points we to be found in the Wirral, I can't say that any of the high points in the area are phenomenal and the Wirrel is the least exciting of the 3 as it was basically a footpath and small green area in a residential part of the area. This was called Poll hill and was 108 meters above sea level.

Halton Castle
Next up was a short drive to Halton, this high point was a little bit more impressive as there was a ruined castle here, it was not as high as the Wirrel however it did have a better view over towards Liverpool, At 100 mtrs Halton Castle was the highest point of Halton.

Another short drive and I was now in Warrington, this one was a tough one as the highest point was situated in the middle of a private gold course, I tried to find a way to get to it however it was not looking good to I drove around and eventually got as close as I good with another lovely view over towards Liverpool, this one was called Appleton Park and at 105 mtrs it is the highest point of Warrington.

Appleton Park
So that is 3 more high points ticked off and although they were not too exciting I did manage to get a great guided tour of Chester, Thanks Robin.

Monday, 1 February 2016

116 - Kinder Scout - Derbyshire - 9th July 2015

Soon after returning home from the Channel islands I was off once again on another mission to tick off another high point from my list and this time I was to be accompanied by Chris. Chris lives in Bournemouth so I drove down to pick him up and then headed north to the Peak District in Derbyshire. Our campsite was situated in the small village of Hulme End in the south of the Peak District not too far from the town of Ashbourne, It was a lovely campsite on the edge of a hill and we pitched up our tent right next to the river Manifold. It was not long before we were visited by lots of ducks.

We had 2 whole days spare in the Peak District and were wondering what to do on our first day, after a bit of exploring and research we discovered there was a walking trail in the area called the Manifold Trail, it would involve a few buses but we thought it would be great to walk the entire length. The Manifold trail is a 9 mile walk that follows an old steam railway along a river and through various valleys and past many other features such as caves, farms and old mines.

We caught the first bus right from the entrance of the campsite, this took us to the town of Ashbourne where we had a quick wander around and we got some lunch to take with us, then it was bus number 2 which took an odd route through some country lanes to the small village of Waterhouses which marked the starting point for our walk back to the campsite.

The walk was really nice, as it wound through the valleys and along the river, it was very green, I think there had been a lot of rain and as it was July there had been a lot of growth recently. The walk went over a few bridges and we were passed by a few people and cyclists but not many, it was nice for it to be so quiet. The path also passed below a few caves including Thor's cave, a natural cavern used by ancient humans to live in. Eventually we came to the half way point which was marked by a little tearoom where we stopped for a drink and snack.

Moving on we carried on along the Manifold way, being an old railway line the trail was very flat so it was an easy walk, the trail also went through a very long tunnel which was cool. Eventually the trail took us into Hulme end where we found the original station still being used as a tourist information centre and a cafe. We ended the day with a relax and a nice dinner.

The next day it was time to tackle the high point of Derbyshire, it was a 40 minute drive but the scenery was lovely and we arrived at a car park not too far from the village of Edale. Leaving the car we headed north and along some roads and onto the pennine way which took us past a farm and along a valley. Crossing a river we were now starting to climb and the first part of the climb was called Jacobs ladder, a steep series of steps which helped us gain some height quite quickly. We were now high up on a ridge and up until now it had been quite quiet but we now came across some larger groups of people heading in the other direction so we pulled over to one side and let them pass.

Carrying on upwards we arrived at some rocky outcrops where we stopped for some photos and then we made ur way onto the the top of Kinder Scout. Here is where it gets complicated, Kinder Scout is the highest point of Derbyshire however the top is so huge and so flat it is difficult to know where the actual highest point is, I had a rough idea so we headed across the marshy land and found what we thought was the highest point and took some more photos, The highest point is 636.3 metres above sea level.

From here we had decided to do a circular walk around the top of Kinder Scout so we headed off again around the edge of the huge top plateau. We stopped for lunch for a while and then moved on to find an amazing waterfall cascading down the side of Kinder Scout, We walked to the top of the waterfall and found the river and amazingly the water was really warm, it was almost bath temperature. Instead of following our planned route we decided to change our plan and follow the river across the top of the mountain. this was quite strange because as the whole area is very soft and peat-like any running water creates hundreds of mini deep valleys all over the top of Kinder Scout.

We followed some of these valleys for ages, they were all roughly 8-12 feet deep and we followed them for ages not really knowing which way we were going however we decided to climb up one of the valley walls so we could see where we were. Once we were able to see our location we found we were still quite a way from the way down from Kinder Scout, it took a while to work our was across to the main path that runs around the top of the mountain and then we decided to take a much more exciting route back to the car.

The route we had decided to take took us straight down to the car in a fairly straight line however the path was pretty much vertically down another waterfall, This was a bit worrying at first because as we stood on the edge looking down we couldn't actually see where the path went below us. it was slow climbing but we found the path down and it was probably one of the most exciting paths I have ever taken. Looking back up at the route behind us we both couldnt believe that we had climbed down it. From here it was a fairly flat walk along a small stream and then back to the road and back to the car.

That evening we had a meal at a local pub and then had another rest at the camp site before our long drive back home the next day. It was an excellent trip and the Peak District is an amazing place, Kinder Scout is well worth a climb as it is a fascinating place. Thanks Chris for an excellent few days away.

Friday, 29 January 2016

115 - Les Platons - Channel Islands - 1st July 2015

There is an official list of high points in the UK and as you may know I have added a few honorary high points along the way, such as the Shard in London, It was time now to do another honorary high point and there is a reason why I needed to do it. The Channel Islands are a group of islands about 90 miles directly south of Weymouth and roughly 10 miles west of France, it is not listed amongst the list of official UK high points for the same reason that Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands are excluded, I do however have a link to the islands as my family comes from Jersey, I still have family on the island so it would be a shame not to visit the highest point during a visit to see my 95 year old Grandma (actually she will be 96 in the next few days (Happy Birthday Nan)) and my Auntie and cousins.

A first for this blog is a plane trip, I travelled from Southampton to the island of Jersey where I was collected up by my lovely Auntie Caroline, she would also be putting me up for a few days at her home in St Clement in the south west of the Island.

The day of the hill trip arrived and I was left to my own devices all day as my auntie had some errands to run, so I wandered to the bus stop and caught the bus into St Helier where I changed for another bus which took me north to a remote bus stop on the side of a road in the north of the island.

The bus dropped me off pretty much exactly where I needed to be, at 136 metres (446 ft) Les Platons is the highest point of Jersey and this became pretty obvious when you see all the various radio towers and masts in the area. I didn't wander around too much here, I didn't know how much was private land and there were people around so didn't want to trespass so I took some photos as close as I could and then wandered down the road to a car park. 

I had decided on the previous day that I was going to start at the highest point and work my way down to the sea so I found a footpath and wandered along it towards the sea and the cliffs, eventually I came out at a house right on the edge of a cliff and below me I could see my destination, the beach at Bonne Nuit bay. From my location at the easterly end of the beach I had to walk along a few paths and past some houses to the opposite end, here there was a small tidal harbour (the tide was out) and a small cafe. It was time for lunch (crab sandwiches) and a sit on the beach for a while, I had some time to kill as the bus from here was once every hour so I sat on the beach and enjoyed the sunshine. 

All that was left to do was to get back to my aunties house so I eventually caught the bus back into St Helier where I decided to have a wander around town for a bit then I walked back the 2 miles to St Clements and my aunties house. The rest of my time in Jersey was filled with swimming in the sea and more crab Sandwiches which are lovely. Thanks to the weather my visit to Jersey was AMAZING and I look forward to returning again soon. 

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 -

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 -

The Mammoth Skeleton