Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Up North and Out West

The journey to Sheffield passed smoothly enough and the tram delivered me to Penny's on a damp grey evening where we dined with her brother - a senior bod in renewable energy. 
A thoroughly enjoyable weekend ensued with a good cycle ride round the surprisingly rural 'Wakefield Wheel' on Saturday and a very sociable ramble in the Worksop area on Sunday. The security system at a scrap metal dealer's rural property was perhaps a little OTT.
A cold drizzly Monday convinced us to do a bit of shopping before seeing the tense 'Argo' at the pics. Less tense and rather more farcical was the 'Sheffield Ghost Tour' led appropriately by Mr P Dreadful - we escaped alive despite rapidly losing the will to live less than half way through the tedious monologue.
Passing through Coventry en route to Brecon we tackled some overhanging trees at my parents before I crossed to Bristol to have the other suspension bushes replaced and a repair done to the van cushions courtesy of the talented Sue. Bill was busy on the final stages of a kitchen renovation and we all enjoyed a good meal that evening with their lad who is completing an eco build in Dorset.
I then headed north for a very pleasant weekend near Llangurig staying on the simple but excellent site off the back road to Nant Rhys bothy - open all year with hook up available and very reasonable rates - the campsite not the bothy : contact Ms Sue Pope on 01686440232.
3G, phone and a TV signal makes this a very useful winter stopover and there are plenty of good walks in the area . 
We completed a circuit along the Wye Valley Walk, in to Nant Rhys bothy (which was in excellent order)and back along the lane on a dry day. A sharp overnight frost was enjoyed not endured courtesy of the heater and much improved van roof before we walked at Nant Y Arian as over 30 red kites circled above.
Sunday night was spent at the top of the Elan Valley Estate from where two stalwarts had already walked in and pitched tents at the new bothy project : Lluest Cwm Bach. Monday morning saw Alec and his team of estate workers join us and by 9am we were hard at work. Scaffolding planks, shovels and wheelbarrows had already been taken in to this remote spot about a mile from the tarmac through bog with the final approach along a better track. 
Thought to be last occupied in the 1950's we had first inspected the ruin in December last year - for me that was a minor milestone as I had just one week previously been in cardiac intensive care and had only been permitted to drive the day before. On that snowy day the project looked daunting although a photo later this year looked more promising - see link to photos.
An impressive amount of graft by equal numbers of EVT and MBA volunteers in muddy wet conditions soon revealed a quarry tile floor, a bread oven and a few artefacts such as old auger bits, a tea pot lid and a few bottles.
Lunch was enjoyed on a mound of sheep dung more than a metre deep in the tin lean-to that offered some shelter for the weary workers.
The afternoon saw the removal of an elder tree lodged in the wall, yet more rubble and the sludge filling what seems to have been a rudimentary water supply for the dwelling.
A start was made on the muck pile and the debris used to level out the old yard and create a drop site for the delivery by helicopter of an estimated 30 tons of material next year when the project begins in earnest.
A few hardy souls camped alongside as the rest of us walked back out to campervans and cottages on a mild but windy November evening.
Fresh faces joined us for Tuesday so that by lunchtime we had completed all the site clearance, prevented livestock from entering and undoing all our good walk and departed leaving the winter rains to wash down the tiled floor, perimeter paths and soften the landscaping.
It was a remarkable and heartening team effort ; many thanks to Alec and his team, Tony and Frank from the MBA with their team and the weather gods for letting us off lightly.
I now head indirectly to Langdale for two weeks indulgence before departing for Spain, Portugal, Spain again and Morocco with a return now planned for Easter as my GP wants to keep a close eye on me (best not mention all the digging then). I then plan to return to Scotland for a couple of MBA work parties and then aim to complete a summer circuit of Scandinavia before returning for the 2013 Beast at Brecon. 
Whilst it is very early to be looking at this event if you would like to be involved with preparation and marshalling please underline Sunday September the 8th 2013 and the few days before and after if you can!
Photos of the Big Dig appear here and as ever my whereabouts lie here.

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