Saturday, 31 March 2012

Scottish Spring

After a relaxing and productive fortnight in Devon I headed over to Pembrokeshire to get the good news from my GP that they were happy for me to have a 3 month prescription freeing me to travel further afield with a repeat appointment and further blood tests not due until June.
A stove was collected and delivered to a bothy near Dolgellau where an excellent weekend's weather enabled us to remove the old one, sort out the flue, source new pipes and leave everything ready for the next visitors.
On the Sunday I met with my parents in Bishop's Castle for mail and departed for Sheffield the next day. A friend and I then spent three perfect days walking above Grassington including a long day over to Malham Tarn with a return via Gordale Scar. The superb scenery, empty space and glorious sun combined with good company and two excellent meals to make for a perfect break.
After going our separate ways I travelled via Coverdale to Swaledale and then explored the lead workings high above Arkengarthdale before spending the night near the Tan Hill Inn whose cosy comforts were enhanced by a talented harpist.
Less than four hours driving the next day had me past Glasgow where queues of motorists were searching for fuel and in the early afternoon I crossed from Gourock to Dunooon on the ferry.
A peaceful spot opposite Bute saw me ready to catch another ferry from Portavadie to picturesque Tarbet where a two hour walk in the forests and hills above the village offered wonderful views of the complicated coastline. A fellow passenger was a keen sea kayaker and had just retired with a plan to visit NZ at length next year.
The busy Kennacraig to Islay sailing was full at lunchtime so I could not travel earlier than booked so I took myself around part of the Kintyre Peninsula enjoying more wonderful views of the two islands I shall spend the next ten days on.

Some pictures should be here and the SPOT may be found via here - although the link has been playing up.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Devon's Delights

After 3 months of largely occupying the van I have recently had the chance to enjoy a comfortable bungalow in the quiet village of Galmpton near Brixham. Despite having visited nearby Dartmoor in previous years and explored the coastline to both the east and west this area was new to me.
The Dart Valley's attractions were a revelation with Agatha Christie's home at nearby Greenway sitting in magnificent grounds which led to the small jetty from which local ferries linked to Dittisham and Dartmouth. This access to sheltered waters enabled a friend to join me for a test paddle from Totnes to Dartmouth with favourable tides and high pressure - conditions which allowed him to paddle the dramatic coastline from Brixham, round Berry Head and in to Kingswear the following day.
During the week I attended to a number of tasks on the van - a replacement fridge was fitted and some plumbing and wiring rerouted to facilitate the installation of an underslung waste tank. A new bike rack that will allow me to access the fresh water fill point without removing the carrier or bikes was ordered and fitted - being higher and mounted on just one door it also removes the need for a light board which will simplify things and avoids the need for heavy lifting.
A TV bracket fitted in the roof space added a touch of sophistication and following a full service the trusty bus is now ready for my drift north to Skye over the next month.
Another friend joined me for the weekend during which we enjoyed a fourteen mile walk following the route of Greg's paddle from the swooping coast path but taking almost 3 times as long and then on Sunday walking along the valley to Dartmouth and returning by ferry.
In bright early morning sunshine I explored the empty expanse of Slapton Sands - used for training prior to the Normandy landings almost 70 years ago but now a haven for bird life before carrying on to spectacular Start and then Prawle Points. Salcombe's Sharpitor provided a final walk after a perfect day with good views of large vessels entering the Channel or heading for Plymouth further along the coast.
A day's gardening and housework has left the premises spick and span so tomorrow sees a leisurely return to Wales for badminton, a GP appointment and then a quick trip in to a bothy near Dolgellau to deliver a replacement stove before heading up to the Yorkshire Dales.
Photos of the last fortnight appear can be found here and I hope to get the Spot locator reporting in during the extended Scottish trip.

The slideshow casts back to the charms of Japan.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Spring Tales

Following the successful trek in Cumbria I revisited the northern Pennines en route to Sheffield and then Coventry and made the decision to retrace my steps at leisure en route to Scotland in late March.
An enjoyable weekend in Bristol included a walk through the Avon valley spotting a pair of deer and admiring a substantial heronry with a dozen or more pairs of the large birds roosting high in the bankside oaks. A pedal in to Bristol gave me a chance to enjoy the old docks and wharves which have been substantially improved and redeveloped over the 22 years since I left for a new life in Wales. A whizz round the mountain bike trail at Ashton Court was my first proper foray on a mountain bike since December which I found exhilarating and reassuring. We also found time to diagnose a broken rear spring as the cause of much rattling beneath the van - as the fridge had also expired I returned to Coventry to pick up a new fridge and an underslung waste tank from the excellent CAK tanks and a spare spring from home.
Raglan Castle provided an interesting diversion en route to Brecon although the flat light didn't show off the spectacular ruins to their best.
Whilst hanging out in the Beacons the second spring also gave up the ghost - considering the terrain and mileage covered fully laden in Oz this was not unexpected and the last renewal had been 4 years and 75,000 miles ago. Thus I decided to entrust their replacement with the main dealer in Swansea before heading north to mid Wales for a very productive scaffold training session at Nant Rhys bothy. A mix of Spring like weather prevailed and the two dozen of us learnt a lot which should hold us in good stead for the planned re roofing in October.
Our Spring meeting went well but a planned motor rally on the Sunday required most people to make an early start to avoid the race so the traditional Saturday night celebrations were curtailed somewhat.
With a departure planned for Monday I decided to wander down to enjoy the spectacle before returning to the now deserted building for a tidy up before dozing in front of the stove as a blizzard and thunderstorm disturbed the otherwise silent location. Surprisingly given the remote location a phone signal was available so a few arrangements for the imminent fortnight in Devon were made before I retreated to the van for the night. The presence of a nearby wind farm and the mobile signal caused me to reflect on how different life at this old farm would have been when it was a family home and how important the work of the MBA is in ensuring that these abandoned properties do at least remain as welcome refuges for lovers of the few remaining relatively wild places of Britain.
Pictures at this link and a slideshow looking back to South Australia a year ago (just to convince me it wasn't all a dream!).