Sea to Summit

On Saturday morning, an hour or so later than planned we left Shanklin sea front on our latest adventure. To climb to the top of the Isle of Wight. An alternative route would have started in Ventnor and involved a steeper climb, mainly through town and a much shorter distance, but to go from Shanklin seemed a better option.

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We follow the coastal path, which circumnavigates to whole of the Island, (a 76 mile route we hope to do at half term) along the esplanade with its crazy golf, fast food cafes and amusement arcades to the steps which take up the cliffs and through the edges of town. For most of this stretch you can’t see the ocean, the view blocked out by large ugly buildings that could be hotels or retirement homes, its hard to tell which at times. The walking becomes better as you leave Shanklin and pass onto the Landslip at Luccombe.

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Its a proper trail from here and as the vegetation closes in around you the Hart’s Tongue Ferns and sedges that line the trailside help you to forget the last forty minutes or so pounding tarmac. It’s safe for the kids to run ahead and its here we spot a Red Squirrel playing in the Ash and Sycamore trees, the kids climb the trunk of a Sycamore that has fallen across the path like an archway. The path meanders on nicely and we start to climb as we head inland.

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We pass through the Devils Chimney, a steep staircase cut through the rock that smugglers use when, well, smuggling, and after crossing the road we’re onto the downs and heading upwards towards something that looks suspiciously like snow. That suspicion is confirmed when I get an icy smack on the back of the head and a wet chill down the inside of my jacket. (I cannot confirm, but I reckon it was my Wife). Further up still we find three sets of eyes staring at us from deformed faces. The snowmen built the day before are clearly struggling to keep themselves together in the warm winter sunshine but the children manage to find enough snow to add to the group of icy watchers.

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We pass grazing goats and follow a long fence line which houses the compound of the radar station. We find the trig point on the top of St Boniface Down (officially a Marilyn) and the views are great. We look down on Ventnor, North to Cowes and the Medina, West over to far away Freshwater and down to the East, Shanklin and Sandown. We can’t, however, stand on the very top of the Isle of Wight because its sits, behind the fence in the radar station. I think about making the kids crawl under the tiny gap between gate and puddle but decide that we’re close enough and take a photo at the gate.

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We return to the sea along Shanklin Down, which is extremely muddy, back through town for a last leisurely stroll along the beach. Sea to Summit and back again. Done.

More photos and our route from this hike can be found on facebook.com/justupthetrail

It’s not all Summits and Peaks

Living on an island, probably as far from a UK mountain as you can get, can be problematic when everyday you’re dreaming of high and wild places. Our highest point, St Boniface Down is a mere 241 metres. OK it’s probably more mountainous than Norfolk but you still need a ferry trip and a drive of 3 hours to get to real hills (Dartmoor or the Brecon Beacons).

In the summer we can fill our days with trips to the beach and various activities that involve getting wet but through the winter that’s not really an option so we usually head for the woods. It’s funny really, the kids have climbed mountains and walked in the wilds for whole days and never once complained. This all changes when it’s a quick trot around a local wood. There’s seems to be an inverse correlation between the length of walk and the amount of whining. So we break it up a bit for them. We’ll generally go orienteering or geocaching or den building to give the walk a purpose but the one phrase that gets them enthusiastic about the woods is:

Shall we find some tree’s to climb?

So here’s a few pictures from our last jaunt up to Firestone Copse. Tree climbing is good there because there’s some tree’s that have grown out and over the tidal creek. As parents we can relax because we know that in the event of a fall they’ll either be wet or muddy but at least it’ll be a soft landing.

Walking the Line

A week or so before Christmas we were watching a documentary about the late Dean Potter and his attempt at the highest, untethered highline. All the kids shouted that they wanted to try slacklining. Fortunately I managed to get a basic slackline kit at a reasonable price and during the holidays we tried it out:

 

Lots more practice is needed but the kit fits nicely in a stuff sack and sits neatly in the bottom of my daypack so whenever we head to the woods we can practice. Fun for all the family!

Off the Beaten Path

I wouldn’t know how you’d even get up there.

Those were the words of the farmer and campsite owner the previous evening when we mentioned we were planning on walking the ridge on the opposite site of the valley but looking at the OS map and the hill itself there was clearly a route up and along which would offer some great views down onto Tall-y-llyn lake and across the valley to Cadar Idris. We had seen the view from the Cadar side of the valley the year before from the Minffordd Path and according to the map we go up Mynydd Cedris, along to Graig Goch topping out at 586m and down Mynydd Rugog at the top of the lake.

The going was really quite tough but we had such a great day, we were out for about 8 hours and didn’t see another soul, apart from the odd fighter plane which buzzed us while we had lunch. The sun shone all day and we felt like real explorers in an untamed wilderness and that is always a great feeling.

Snowdon 2015

They’re just part of the Adventure, right?

The guy in the car park looked at us like we were mad and to be fair to him there was a little bit of crazy that had brought us to this point.  The clocks had changed over the previous weekend so wanting to make the most of the now limited daylight hours we had arrived at an empty Pen y pass car park at first light on a chill but sunny late October morning. Up the PYG and down the Miners, a well trod route offering enough interest without being too taxing. Probably four hours up and three down all being well.  Just as I tightened my backpack straps and prepared to set off I was reminded of the “crazy” element of our little band of summit seekers.

“Dad, Mum said can you do my laces?”

Was it crazy to bring the kids along? Part of me was sure it was but we were ready with extra snacks, plenty of additional breaks factored in and naturally a preparedness to do some carrying. We were also, and this was important to us, happy to bail at any stage if it got too much for them, after all it was supposed to be fun, so a day IN the mountains was favorable to half an hour on top of one.

I checked my watch as we set off and it was 7.45 am. We chatted to countless people passing us as they charged by and again a couple of hours later on their way down while we were still stubbornly heading upwards. The kids were in great spirits and they pretty much ran and skipped up although our youngest, Isaac who had just turned 4 in September was determined to find the hardest route to the top. If the track went around a rock he had to scramble over it. Evan (8) plodded on in his own little world with a quiet determination and Lil (6) chatted all the way. With plenty of stops we reached the rather busy summit by just after 2 pm.

We headed back down after another snack break, and had a little paddle in the lake alongside the Miners Track. No one complained about sore feet or legs but I’m surprised the children’s hands weren’t sore from all the high fives and fist bumps they received from fellow hikers. Even when the rain set in about 4.30 there were no complaints. We got back to the car park about 5.45 pm, a full ten hours on the hill, in the dark and with only our car left parked up. Within 5 minutes, two out of three were asleep in the back while we made our way back to our lodge.

I think back on that day now, more than a year and several other hill days and summits later, to the guy who thought we were mad to take three young kids up Snowdon and to how proud I was with their efforts, I mean WE DID IT, no one cried, no one complained, no one carried anyone else and EVERYONE wanted to do it again the next day.