Yorkshire Sculpture Park 2017

It’s not always strenuous hikes and long trails. Sometimes we like to find other things to do while out and about. This was the case last year when, with time between a visit to the Peak District and a family occasion in Doncaster, we headed up for a day at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

A place where Mum can get inspired, the kids can be kids, and Dad can go hiking

We had camped the night before and were feeling a little dishevelled when we arrived at the park. We negotiated the toilets and as it had just started to rain a little we had look around the indoor galleries which were pretty impressive. Some of the stuff went straight over my head but Hazel was really enjoying herself and there was even an area for the kids to contribute some works of art of their own. 

Kids will be Kids

We headed outside, through what I would describe as a well kept sculpture garden, just with far cooler sculptures than I usually see in gardens through the course of a day at work, and out into the larger park, complete with a lake, parkland, woods and livestock. Now things got interesting. While we had a map we didn’t use it to navigate, we just wondered down paths and between hedges and in circles, all the while being surprised and excited by what came around the next corner. By the end of the day we had probably covered 4 or 5 miles and that counts as hiking to me.

The biggest highlight for me was simply how these massive installations just looked at home in the countryside.  The army of sculpted figures in an open space felt like that was where they were meant to be, as did the giant head amongst the trees across the lake, even the massive rabbit headed lady didn’t look out of place and I suppose that’s the point of it right? Right? Just making sure! 

I’ve just been on the website and they’ve got an exhibition of Norman Ackroyd images called The Furthest Lands until February 2019 so we might try and organise another trip in the new year.

Located in West Bretton, near Wakefield, and it’s basically a 500 acre art gallery with loads of contemporary sculptures spread throughout its park and woodland. 

It is home to pieces by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.
(My far more cultured wife tells me these are important creators).

Its extremely child friendly, accessible and cheap, you only pay for parking AND you get the added bonus of a half decent hike if you explore for a whole day.

The Tennyson Trail

In preparation for our 2017 adventure on the West Highland Way, we took a shakedown hike on the Tennyson Trail, here on the island. At the time I wrote about how thing actually “shook down” but I didn’t go into much detail about the trail itself.

The Tennyson Trail runs from Carisbrooke in the centre of the Isle of Wight for around 14 miles to the Needles on the western tip of the island. It passes through fields, woodland and culminates on the chalk ridge that runs across the island, high up on the downs, offering views of the Solent to the north and the Atlantic in the south.

We left on cold but bright February morning, laden with packs full of everything we thought we might need when we headed to Scotland. So, even though we were just out for the day we carried the tent and sleeping bags and spare clothes and the kitchen sink.

tennyson-trail-017The first mile or so through town from home to the trailhead was hard going, all uphill and on tarmac, and the packs weighed us down. Once we got on the trail itself things quickly improved and the kids ran ahead in the winter sunshine, trying their best to get in every puddle and find the muddiest way along the track.

As the trail entered Brightsone Forest, the conditions underfoot deteriorated as there had been recent forestry works and the heavy machinery had churned the track up. Fortunately they had also left a small clearing with stumps to sit on so we stopped for lunch and tested out the new stove with a brew. After lunch, with renewed vigour we pushed on through the forest and onto the downs.

tennyson-trail-035The February sun was getting lower and in our eyes as we strode westwards, through the National Trust land and the grazing cattle, (also leaving a muddle trail) and we were treated to sea views on the left and right. The kids ran on to play hide and seek among the various tumuli on Brook Down and around 5 we were treated to a spectacular winters sunset. The only downside is we had only done about 9 of the 14 miles and it would soon be dark!

We picked up our pace, which the children started to object to, and started to descend through the golf course as the last rays of sunshine disappeared below the horizon. With the gone, so the temperature dropped and the darkness brought with it what felt like an instant 10°C drop. There were a few tears here because of tiredness and cold so we decided to call it a day when we hit Freshwater Bay rather than continuing on for a mile or two in the dark to Alum Bay and the Needles.

We still had to walk 3/4s of a mile into the village to catch a bus home and surprisingly the kids were wide awake for the whole journey and back to their usual raucous best. However once we were home, Isaac promptly fell asleep on the stairs.

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A Snowdon Traverse

I was abruptly woken from slumber, at 6.30 am by my 3 kids jumping on me with nothing but excitement in their eyes. No it wasn’t Christmas but it was the morning of my 38th birthday, we were in the little blue tent and for me, the day couldn’t have started better. The following day was to be Isaac’s 6th birthday and when we asked him what he wanted to do for his special day I couldn’t have been prouder.

“I want to go mountain climbing for my birthday!”

So that was decided. We threw bits in the car, jumped on a ferry and headed for Snowdonia. Isaac had said he really wanted to go up Snowdon again but on a different trail so that was easy to plan for but for my special day I wanted to head back to Moel Siabod and spend a couple of hours scrambling up and down Daer Ddu. The weather forecast had other ideas though. Saturday promised to a lovely sunny day with light breezes but Sunday, Isaac’s Birthday looked like a wash out. So on my birthday, so as not to disappoint the little man, we headed back to the scene of our first mountain ascent a few years ago. Snowdon.

We headed out of our quiet camping spot in Beddgelert Forest and headed for the Rhyd-Ddu station and the trail of the same name. It was a great route up, plenty of boulders for the kids to play on, a giant hole in the ground and a precipitous drop as we headed up to the slightly exposed Bwlch main. It was fairly quiet for the last Saturday of the school holidays until we reached the summit.

A scene reminiscent of a festival greeted us. I don’t mean just busy, it was like a small town had established itself on the summit or someone was handing out free money from the summit cairn, frankly it was horrible. I knew it was going to be busy up there but the quiet approach had fooled me. There was some kind of organised race up the mountain from Llanberis and lots of people like ourselves just out for the day. I did experience a first though. I got sworn at for stopping to look out at the view so the person behind had to break stride. I know, how selfish of me!.

We didn’t bother to queue for the cairn and headed down via the PYG track which was a delight apart from an idiot leaving the trail to take a selfie and kicking a load rocks down onto us below. He didn’t come back our way, which is probably good because I would have shouted at him.  Anyway, apart from that we had great fun coming down the track, the views are outstanding and there are plenty of rocky bits for the kids to play on, we spent our time chatting about our previous visit and what we might do in the rain tomorrow. We jumped on the bus at Pen y pass back to Beddgelert and went for drive to Caernarfon and a stroll around the old town before heading on for a Birthday Big Mac.

(Click on the photo which should take you to flickr for more photos of our Snowdon Traverse)

Snowdon 2017

Brecon Beacons 2017

Previously posted separately from my phone in the little blue tent but now all parts together plus some thoughts on the trip as a whole.

Day 1.

After a quick visit to see the grandparents in the shire, we’ve crossed the border and are camping in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

We left around noon and headed for Brecon where the canal and a pair of Canadian Canoes waited for us. Now, I’ve not really paddled before apart from a little mess around at the beach but Hazel was pretty proficient in her youth so for once, she was our leader in this new adventure.

With Evan and I in one boat and Lil and Isa with their mum in the other we headed out along the water. It didn’t take long to get the hang of it but a brief lapse in concentration would often see the boat not quite facing the right way.

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After picking blackberries from the bank and possibly scrumping a few early apples we finished the afternoon racing through the last few bridges back to the canal basin. Shoulders aching we headed for the play park and some doughnuts.

As I write (for the first time from the phone) we’re settling down in the famous old blue tent, at a lovely campsite in the national park. We’ve had noodles for tea and tomorrow we’re heading for Pen y fan and later on we’ll go looking for the bat cave. Apparently the Dark Knight was filmed nearby so I expect we’ll be chasing the Joker around the Brecon Beacons most of the evening.

Day 2.

Oh the rain! It was dry when we woke up, we had a porridge breakfast and headed into the mountains for Pen y Fan, Corn Du and Cribyn. However by the time we pulled into the car park at the bottom of the hill it was bloody awful. Now we’re not usually fair weather hikers but today we made an exception.

We headed off for the Four Falls Trail nearby, a nearly 6 mile loop which at times turned into some light scrambling (for us at least) and takes in, as suggested, four waterfalls. The weather improved for a moment as we hiked but then got steadily wetter and wetter but not as damp as we got when we managed to go behind the curtain of one of the falls, a first for the children and Hazel.

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Later on we found another little hike to the waterfall which was in Batman Begins or the Dark Knight. Isaac was especially excited to find the entrance to the Bat Cave but he’s made me promise not to reveal the location incase the Joker reads Just up the trail.

Back at the campsite we’re the only ones left. I think everyone else has gone somewhere drier but we’re warm and cosy in our little blue tent.

Day 3.

It’s quiet up here. I’m sat on top of Pen Allt-mawr just above Cwmdu. It’s 8:45am and occasionally the sun is peaking through and lighting the valley below and its innumerable shades of green.

I’ve been selfish and come out on my own and left everyone else sleeping. Some of our family joined us yesterday and it’ll be great for the kids to play with their cousins later and for Hazel to spend time with her brother but sometimes I just need to climb a big hill.

I left camp and followed a footpath for a bit before jumping onto some sheep tracks. It was hard going but after an hour I’m here and very pleased with myself. A 700+m hill before breakfast can only be good for the soul. If I head back down now I might get some porridge, or I could just sit for 10 more minutes.

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Postscript

After getting back down to camp I found that there was no porridge. There was however, bacon and sausages so that was quickly devoured. As our companions were recovering from an epic charity hike in the Cotswolds the previous weekend we just went down to Crickhowell for a wander along the river and the canal. It was a nice gentle stroll which included a stop in the pub which was a real treat. We’re not really ones for pub stops, neither of us really drink and the kids aren’t fussed so I was slightly surprised to be called back after walking past the place without evening noticing its existence. The kids played nicely with their cousins and we managed about 6 miles of gentle riverside walking.

I feel we have unfinished business in the Beacons, we didn’t get up any sizeable hills together but hey, there’s always next time. We did go kayaking for the first time and the waterfalls were a real treat so we can’t complain. Considering the weather I think we made a really good fist of 3 days in the National Park.

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New Forest 2017

Back in the summer, Evan and I made a plan to hike from the ferry terminal at Lymington, through the New Forest and on to Salisbury Cathedral. We hiked 7 miles on Friday evening before setting up the tarp and wildcamping. The next morning we awoke, surrounded by ponies, and set off by 6.30 am. We covered 21 miles that day, but fatigue hit us hard mid afternoon. We had been using the GPS device which had our proposed route loaded on but the remaining mileage never really matched up with our position on the map. Based on the figure the GPS was giving us we should have reached Salisbury that evening, however on closer inspection the technology only show 3/4s of our route. This news lowered Evans spirits somewhat, and coupled with a lack of water sources, we decided to call a halt to what had been a really enjoyable hike. I always say its better to have a good time than a push on and not enjoy it so we jumped on a bus and headed home.

We managed to make a little film about our adventure, although the camera equipment needs upgrading from a 10 year old digital compact camera and an iPhone4, so I hope you enjoy it.

An Urban Hike in Historic Goole.

The term hiking usually conjures up images of rough tracks, high mountains and wilderness. Unfortunately we’re not all lucky enough to have that on our doorstep so shouldn’t we make use of the resources we have just outside our front door. Pavements. We could spend days walking the streets of London or York, New York for that matter, and not see everything on offer. We all know that. But what about the little market towns and former industrial hubs that most of us call home. I’m sure we can find something of interest if we look hard enough.

It’s said that all high streets look the same nowadays and at ground level that’s probably true but look above the facades of the chain stores and express supermarkets and that’s where you see it. It might be a name of long since vanished retailer painted onto the side of the building or maybe an interesting chimney pot or some remarkable stone work created by a master of an almost forgotten skill. Now when I visit new towns and cities I’m usually looking upwards for remnants of the history of the place. Most people miss it, some don’t even know it’s there. Just here, in Newport Isle of Wight there’s stacks of history so imagine what you might find in your hometown. Just remember to look up.

We tricked Gramps into hiking with us. He may not realise but yes, that wander around the narrow alleyways, riverbanks and dockyards that he used to frequent was indeed hiking. an urban hike. We had a great afternoon and our very own personal guide and I think the kids got a little insight to where there Grandad grew up.

If you’ve been on a great Urban Hike, have any ideas for towns and cities to hike through  or think urban hiking is the worst idea ever, leave us a comment below. Cheers.

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On the Edge.

We recently managed to squeeze in an afternoon at Stanage Edge. With arrangements made for family visits in Yorkshire over the weekend we headed up on a thursday morning, catching a 6.30 am ferry, and arrived in the rather splendid Hope Valley just after lunchtime. We found a lovely little campsite for the night just down the hill from Stanage Edge. It took us 10 minutes to pitch up, and make our way along the little track and it wasn’t long before the edge came into view.

We spent the afternoon clambering and scrambling up and down the rocks. The kids had their first real go at bouldering (video to follow) and they got a little too confident at times. We had a little hike along the edge before the kids wanted to go back and play on the rocks. It was a proper little adventure sports playground and we were really impressed.

In one afternoon we hiked, did a little trail running and some inelegent parkour, scrambled and bouldered. We finished the evening with a bread and cheese picnic, watching the sun go down along the Hope Valley before heading back to the tent and star gazing through the open doors (We rarely zip up in the summer). The only problem was a lack of time as we had plans to meet family the following day (which turned out to be great) but I think we’ve found a new destination to explore properly next time. With some crash mats!

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Boys Night Out.

Do adventures need to be long, tiring and well planned? We headed to the beach on the spur of the moment on a cold and foggy January evening. Just for dinner. We fired up the storm kettle, feasted on noodles, cookies and hot chocolate and were home before bedtime. A nice “microadventure” after a hard day at work and school.

*apologies for the camera work, dark and foggy with a phone camera!

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!