DofE Bronze Practice.

22°C, light wind and they bright sun.

First expedition of the season. Managing it was more sane this year because we split the groups so we took only 35 at a time. Last year, we had 95 and although there were more staff, we’re still only 4 leaders and the others are supervisors. There were several nights when we got to bed well after midnight. One well after 02.30am. Alarms were set for 6- that was hard. I grabbed a kip in the afternoon knowing another late one was coming.
Perfect weather and manageable numbers didn’t prevent the kids grumbling however. Oh dear, never mind. Half of the walking was in forest and the other- gravelly scrub.
Forest navigation is tricky, and the groups were ingenious when finding ways to get lost. Most often, they would head off and find themselves back at a previous checkpoint having created an unintended circular route.
You can see it happening, the shoulders sink and hands are thrown down in a gesture of hopelessness.

Cannock Chase is renowned for adders. Carl and I spotted one in the grass so I tried to photograph it. The first pictures missed so Carl blocked it’s path with a boot. It arched back like this and I got the shot. A split second later, it struck his boot with a bite. One angry snake. Good that it hit boot because they are capable to getting through trouser fabric. Carl has a few serious allergies, so it was good not to find another to add to his list. It would be typical that he didn’t have his epi pen.

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Theiving Peacocks.

11~17°C, sunny with SW brisk wind.
I rode Racelite with MapMyRide+! Distance: 105.83km, time: 04:42:49, pace: 2:40min/km, speed: 22.45km/h.

I still enjoy the thrill of getting onto the Racelite. It’s light and fairly nimble but somehow less so. In comparison to my two alloy bikes, it feels rather flexible. If I shake the handlebars as I ride, I can’t really feel it in the seat. The frame flexes. If my job prospects were better, I’d consider an upgrade to a stiff aluminium road racer. For now, it’s good for long distance rides since it’s comfortable.

Today’s pace was not blistering, last week’s cold has not entirely left. The peacocks were funny though.

Look at the cheek, they climb up onto the table and throw the food they want onto the floor. Plates go crashing and they don’t even blink. Peacocks have the minds of criminals.

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London Plane, a story.

,A London Plane tree, near a school.

This tree tells a story, those long vertical splits in the trunk are not common to this type. I suspect a long seasonal drought one year, followed by a substantial period of rain. My hypothesis is that during the dry time, the whole tree contracted. When the rain did come, there was not enough flex in the bark to avoid the splitting we see here. The tree has recovered, I’m glad to say.
Spring in 2012 followed that pattern. This year could do the same. So far we’ve had the driest 6 months for 20 years.

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Hard on the hands.

15°C, Brisk SE wind, mostly sunny, entirely dry.

I rode The Jake with MapMyRide+! Distance: 72.78km, time: 04:10:50, pace: 3:27min/km, speed: 17.41km/h.

It’s all dried and cracked out there. Even molehills are as hard as stone. The big feature of the day is wind. A strong, dry south-easterly, which can only dry out the land more.
The vibration is hard on the hands. Suspension, at least on the front would solve this. The beach was firm too. Overall, average speed was low today. Partly that’s the conditions, you can’t ride off-road as quickly. The other part is that my fitness isn’t as good this year.

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The dark side of Aughton.

11°C, light cloud, SE breeze.

Today, I walked to town the scenic route to go shopping. I crossed fields and passed a water pumping station with a view over the town. On the edge of the ridge is a modest nature reserve with gorse and wood.

All around this nature reserve is a border of Silver Birch trees. Somebody doesn’t like them. Perhaps they block their view. There is a house with plastic fake lawns. Is it their idea?
These signs weren’t cheap to make. They are printed plastic signs of the sort made professionally. There were about ten signs, on boards like the photo, and screwed onto tree trunks. All but one were gone by the time I returned an hour later.
A couple walking their dog told me about an incident nearby. They walked on a grass verge to avoid traffic. A woman in a car wagging a finger at them said: “that’s not a place to let your dog mess”. the dog hadn’t and the woman was carrying a little black bag from an earlier poop by the pooch.

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Summer snow.

2°C, light wind.

Snow in summer term? I always knew it was possible, we’ve had snow in April before. It once closed schools in April too. Today’s snow was only thin, but it’s there. However, it didn’t take tong to melt in the sunshine.

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Return from Cafngaw.

8°C, no wind, white cloud and dry.

I hiked with MapMyRide+! Distance: 10.35km, time: 04:16:00, pace: 24:44min/km, speed: 2.43km/h.

Cefngw bothy.

Up a bit late so finally woke after 7am. I blame that chocolate muesli bar from Aldi. Strong chocolate can do that. After walking for over 8 hours, I should have fallen into a solid sleep quickly. Normally, that’s what happens. I woke in the night after anxiety type dreams. I was worrying about the car in that isolated car park, away from the road. Images of broken windows and fire damage pestered my mind.

Woke late, the day was an hour old by then. At least I got the tent down quickly. Then plotted a route back that loops around the north of the mountain. There is a lake that might be good to visit but I missed it while picking the easiest route through the heather.
Once past the bwlch, the land opened out into an enormous ocean of grass, softly undulating to the northern horizon. I wonder whether Scotland has anything like this?
Curving round to the east, the land dipped towards the first signs of civilisation. A couple of farms appeared on the Llyn Arenig which flows into the reservoir by the car park.

Rather like the start, signage is poor but the public paths were clear enough on the map. I don’t like simply striding through somebody’s farm, especially with newborn lambs. I took a wide circuit around them. It’s no good to cause stress to their mums.

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Arenig Fach up.

8°C,light wind and dry. Some cloud above 500m.
I hiked with MapMyRide+! Distance: 10.21km, time: 08:15:00, pace: 48:29min/km, speed: 1.24km/h.

Stuart at about 10.15. The first paths were a bit tricky to find. The map was clear enough but on the ground, no signs, so stiles, nothing. I have always wanted to walk the Migneint Moors, now here’s my chance. It wasn’t as boggy as I expected but kid heather was hard work. This spring has been quite dry, I’m grateful for that.
The trick here is to look well ahead to find strips of grass that run between heather fields for easier passage. It’s worth getting to a ring contours for the view ahead. Even here, grass is in big tussocks, so each stride is awkward. People with shorter legs might struggle. I wouldn’t bring a DofE group here.

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Arenig Fawr evening

10°C, dry with light high cloud.
I hiked with MapMyRide+! Distance: 13.75km, time: 04:35:00, pace: 20:00min/km, speed: 3.00km/h.


At 4pm, I decided to go. I was parked and in a good place to choose from a few options. The weather is very stable right now and it hasn’t rained for weeks. I threw some rude in the rucksack including my stove and supper. That turned out to be a very good idea. Just in case, I packed a spare torch too.
The route started simply, then a possible ascent onto the west of the ridge opened up.
These aren’t massive mountains, so making the first top was easy enough at 700m.
I got my breath back while taking photos and then took the ridge East. The summit is visible all the way. A cairn at the top has very good shelters. There was an ideal spot to get the stove out and make cous-cous. To improve it, I sliced up some cheese and had a very pleasant meal in a rather wonderful place. Familiar mountains were visible in each direction. The Rhinogau, Cnicht, Snowdon and the Gliderau.

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Southport front.

11°C, sunny with strong W, dry.
I rode The Jake with MapMyRide+! Distance: 62.68km, time: 03:11:43, pace: 3:04min/km, speed: 19.62km/h.

Overnight rain dampened the ground somewhat. It dried up during the day.
HDR; although I like the hdr effect on photos like this, it is only an effect. The app uses a kind of bass-relief method rather than genuine multi-exposure merging to create the high dynamic range. It might be interesting to try out the techniques with my new Fuji X-10. It’s a compact camera capable to taking multiple exposure at the same instant. This way, the merge should work without any smudges caused by movement.

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