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