Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Autumn's Onset

Following the energetic weekend of mountain biking I took it easy for a few days with a potter round Hay on Wye's book shops, the restored flour mill at Talgarth and Bronllys Castle. A misty and tranquil walk round Llangorse Lake included a climb up Allt yr Esgair for surprisingly good views of the surrounding Beacons and after badminton in Brecon on Wednesday I drove up to Coventry for a sign on interview with the practice nurse. 
In an effort to rejuvenate the van I changed the fuel filter plus oil and oil filter which seems to have done the trick. A disintegrating  fan belt was spotted and later replaced whilst down at Bristol. During this work I spotted a badly worn suspension bush and arranged for it to be replaced on the Tuesday thus imposing on the hospitality of friends for longer than planned. With my MOT only a month old this was an alarming oversight on the tester's part and highlights the shortcomings of these safety inspections.
Good weather and access to a few tools enabled me to give my bike a much needed clean and service, exchange the waste tank tap for one with a larger bore and continue to transfer my various settings to the new netbook. 
Saturday saw us walk along the bank of the Severn to the original crossing on a crisp and sunny day whilst the poor weather on Sunday saw me scanning a decade of farm photographs on to a memory stick and then disposing of the bulky and rather tatty old albums. I was pleased with the results and will deal with the remaining dozen or so other albums covering the 1980's over the next few weeks. Around 2000 slides also need attention but that will be an even more labour intensive task which may keep me occupied whilst down in Europe this winter.
I plan to leave in late December and head to Spain over the Christmas/New Year period and then slow right down once it warms up.
As part of the pre trip preparation the excellent PC Motors (01179424746) in Bristol will be asked to replace the same bushes but on the offside and do a cam belt - much easier to have this done early here in the UK than over on the continent. The last change was done in Auckland!
A new clutch is being fitted this week after which I travel to Sheffield by train for a long weekend, return south for the bothy muck digging and then have two cosy weeks up in the Lakes.
It is good to be drawing all the various loose strings of the last year together and I am looking forward to setting off once more with a rough route but no timetable - just how I like it!
A few piccies here cover the last week and these here look at a few highlights of my smallholding experiences.
Errant locations via the Spot here.

Fond Oz memories epitomised below.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Beacons Biking

A picture perfect journey on a sunny autumn day through Wales' finest scenery had me in Talybont by lunchtime to meet Bill and Dale with time to walk in to Brecon along a combination of canal towpath and footpaths with just enough time to get the last bus back followed by a few pints in the Star.
Saturday saw the team assemble with the arrival of Nick and Dale and in perfect conditions we headed off up the Talybont Valley. The long climb brought us to Torpantau Tunnel after which we followed much of the 2012 Beast route across the moor and down the rocky tracks of Cwm Callan. At Pontsticill we split in to two and 3 of us headed over the Gap Road to enjoy the swooping descent towards Brecon culminating in a blast down the green lane in to Brecon itself where Dale picked up some much needed front pads at Biped Cycles. 
A less conventional crossing of the Gap can be seen by clicking the above link.
A steady spin back along the canal finished an excellent day's riding and justified a guilt free feast and more ale at the Star once more.
Early mist on Sunday morning soon burnt off as four of us drove round to park in the shadow of the Sugar Loaf and begin the long steady climb up the Grwynne Fawr reservoir - the crisp air, bright sunshine and stunning colours showed off the impressive dam at its finest . Lunch at the bothy saw us fit to continue to the ridge with wonderful views across Radnorshire before we headed south towards Waun Fach along a broad ridge that at times got boggy leading to a spectacular face plant by Bill. Almost never ending views across to the Carmarthen Fans were our reward as we kept up a decent pace to ward off the surprisingly fresh easterly wind.
The fast descent down an old pack horse route to Hermitage put smiles on all our faces and a weary return through the lanes had us back to the vans after two thoroughly rewarding days.
Given the tough terrain and long distances the bikes and bodies all held up well - thanks for turning out guys - must do it again!
This week I am seeking advice on a perceived power loss combined with increased fuel consumption that may require some professional intervention - these issues relating to the van not me - and next week I travel to Sheffield for a few days.
Photos of a memorable weekend here and locations here.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

A Windy Week in North Wales

After the successful bothy related activities I took advantage of clear conditions to complete a circuit of the Carneddau with a return via the small shelter on Foel Grach that I had failed to find 25 years ago on the first night of a memorable off - road, north to south cycling traverse of Wales. It was a stunning day with very strong gusts enhancing the exposure on the short scrambly ridge and clear views to the surrounding peaks. 
A look round Conway Castle and the town walls was followed by the coastal drive round to Caernarfon where I was to spend a week at a smallholding with three horse and two cats for company. The horses could  clearly detect fear but kindly didn't take advantage whilst the cats could spot a soft touch and took full advantage settling themselves on and around me during evenings in front of the wood burner.
Whilst the rain generally confined itself to the nights very strong winds blew for most of the week deterring me from heading for the tops. However a day in Llanberris visiting the impressive Electric Mountain  Pump Storage Power Station built almost entirely underground and the National Slate Museum was well worth it. The collection of skilfully crafted wooden patterns for the foundry was a highlight for me - especially as many of the finished cast products could be seen in use in the buildings and machinery. 
Crossing over to Anglesey on the Britannia Bridge gave me a good view of Telford's Menai Bridge whilst at Holyhead the walk from the breakwater quarries to South Stack included seal sightings, a view of the Wicklow Mountains near Dublin and the Isle of Man, and spectacular sea cliffs. 
Beaumaris Castle was impressively solid but high tides prevented me from following the coast road north so I headed instead to the dramatic scenery of Parys Mountain where huge deposits of copper provided boom times many years ago for nearby Amlwch. The gaping hole with its many hues and barren outcrops reminded me of the iron ore mining in Western Australia and the site provided an interesting couple of hours exploration.
Caernarfon Castle's impressive bulk finished off a varied and informative week and tomorrow I head south for a weekend of mountain biking near Brecon.
Photos here cover the highlights and stalkers can find me here.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Autumnal Activities

The last few weeks have provided a remarkable variety of activities based largely around Wales where the transitional Autumnal colours have been providing a changing back drop.
A visit to Coventry and across to Shropshire to see family and inspect an impressive new wood chip boiler system at my brother's cottage included the spreading of many tons of stone chippings to tidy up his drive. This was followed in South Wales by assisting in the spreading of 8 cubic metres of concrete at a friend's latest project.
A trip to the informative Deep Pit mine at Blaenavon followed by the adjacent blast furnace remains provided a fascinating glimpse in to Wales's historic industrial heritage.
Further evidence of this was apparent on my cycle along the canal towpath from Abergavenny to Newport - very well worth doing with a number of surprises along the way. Long term plans to reopen the waterway seem ambitious but it would be good to see the flights of disused locks functioning once more. 
After a social event in Brecon I returned to Coventry once more to register with a local GP and then took Crad to an outpatient appointment where progress seemed satisfactory. Later that week we headed over to West Wales on a trip for him down memory lane to the Cliff Hotel near Cardigan. I picked up my old slides and photos whilst there which provided me with an opportunity to look back more than a decade to early life on the farm, my caving days and even life as a student nurse in Hampshire over 30 years ago.
A good meal at the Penycae Inn in the Upper Swansea Valley with a friend from my smallholding days was a chance to visit this comfy pub which is much changed from the days when it was a rather more basic affair. I also picked up a new netbook as this machine is showing signs of age after several years of trouble free performance - said replacement will just sit tucked away until things crash permanently.
Our planned re roof of Nant Rhys bothy in mid Wales fell foul of new asbestos handling regulations but we all met there anyway for our Autumn Area Meeting where progress on other projects, new possibilities and current issues filled a constructive evening. The proposed new bothy in the Elan Valley seems likely to go ahead next year as planning permission has been granted - our initial involvement will centre around the shovelling out of many tons of sheep sh*t in mid November - can't wait.
We all then migrated north to Dolgellau to stay at Penrhos bothy and walk some of the local hills  - 3 of us recreated 'Last of the Summer Wine' scenarios on a couple of gentle but jovial jaunts.
To make use of booked leave and willing volunteers we again moved north to isolated Dulyn bothy in Snowdonia at the back of the Carneddau. An excellent meal in the local pub provided fuel for the hour's walk in which Chris and I neatly avoided by kipping up at the car park. At the bothy the stove required major work as much of the flue and exit pipe had corroded away. Given the remote location and distance from the roadhead we were fortunate that the hydro electric scheme workers were inspecting the adjacent reservoir and valve house and were willing to haul out said stove on their tracked load lugger and Land Rover. Phil and Mike then dashed down to civilisation to effect repairs, returning safely late on a frosty Tuesday night.
On Wednesday the power workers again provided much assistance with the stove, cement, ply and coal and after a busy day by all the bulk of the work was completed along with external pointing, internal painting and a new chimney cap and cowl.
Today heavy rain has sent me down to Llandudno for supplies and a catch up as next week I will be over near Caernarvon where house sitting and keeping an eye on three horse will leave me time to explore some of Snowdonia's tops or if the weather closes in the many attractions of Anglesey and perhaps the Lleyn Peninsular. 
Photos here capture some of the highlights of a busy 3 weeks since my last musings and Spotty Spot here will enable monitoring of my whereabouts.
Slides top right return to Japan as a marked contrast to my current location!