Archive for the ‘Geocaching’ Category

Today I set out on my mountain bike..Nothing technical, just tracks and bridal ways. The plan was to do a 25 mile circular , high level route. I started in a local park with car parking and toilets not following far from my house. I had just fitted some new shimano clipless pedals and got a new pair of cleated mountain bike shoes.
I left the start point and was soon making a steep ascent up a small lane.

Due to the ascent, I made a conscious effort never to have both feet clipped into the pedals until I had mastered getting them free. I also brought a tool with the right sized Allen key to adjust the clips.

This worked well until I was nearly at the top, where the lane ends at a farm and my planned route follows a bridal path. I had to stop due to an overtaking motor vehicle and lost my balance to the right side. Unfortunately, my left foot was free, not by right and I ended up in a grass verge feeling a right Prat. The good thing was that the car was out of sight!

The bridal path began with a short 200m section which was about a foot deep in mud. I carried the bike for most of the way to keep the gears free of muck. Then it was away to the main ridge on a farm track. I managed to locate a geocache in this area and sat on a nearby rock for a drink and chocolate bar.

I made good progress for the next 10 miles or so including a hairy downhill section and a coupe of sharp uphill climbs. Reaching the end of the ridge, I had planned to go north west, picking up another geocache before heading south along a ridge that forms the other side of the valley I has come up.

This plan which worked on a map the night before didn’t survive contact with reality. The tracks at the valley head had changed due to a new mining operation. I discover this when following what should have been an easy track heading off the the east, but stopped at a barb wire fence. I retraced my tracks and took the next eastern track. This one ended in a fence protecting a drop into a flooded quarry. About this time, a bad weather front moved in from the north west with great sweeping clouds of hill fog.

Again retracing my tracks, I followed the main track until it met a minor road. Given the foggy conditions I switched on the bike lights, head torch and a strobe on my rucksack. I followed the road north east in the hope of picking up the trail that had been cut off by the mine. Soon I saw a promising track carrying the “loops and links” logo. I followed the track checking the compass bearing against that of the map to make sure it was right one. Visibility was very poor due tot the fog and the terrain devoid of much in the way of land marks.

The track soon stopped in a barbed wire fence! Thisvtine the culprit was not the mine itself, but a new railway line used to transport the mines products. With a bit of cursing I retraced my track up hill investigating a couple of side paths that invariably ended in sheep tracks. Back at the road, I decided to follow it all the way back to my start point.

All in all a good ride, I’ll very sending some feedback to the “loops and links” people though!

Carry On Camping

Carry On Camping (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We carried on camping this year with a visit to Gower in South Wales.  It was just a short visit over a long weekend – Friday to Monday. I intended to load up the trailer and get organised on the Thursday, but this proved difficult due to working until late.
We managed to get our personal kit sorted out and clothes, so I loaded the trailer up on Friday morning. Packing the trailer is a bit of an art form. Its just a little Erde 101 with an extension which nearly doubles its capacity. However, the extension is not ridged or robust, so only light things can be packed on top. I usually tray to get the tent, poles and furniture in first as these are the heaviest. Unfortunately, its the tent that we need first!

Friday

Anyway we arrived at Kennexstone Camp Site in the Gower around1400hrs. The weather was brilliant – hot and sunny, so we pitched the tent and got ourselves organised easily. We use a “Royal Hampton 4” tent along with an extension designed to fit it.  We use the extension as a kitchen and bathroom. Because it has no groundsheet its great for taking off wet/muddy/sandy clothes so the actual tent inner doesn’t get contaminated. There is nothing worse than a tent filled with sand, water or mud.

We spent the afternoon exploring the camp site and visited a field contain lots of friendly sheep. The children quickly made friends with others on the site and were soon off playing. Tinned hot dogs for tea with fresh locally baked rolls, tomato sauce and mustard. Washed down with squash for the kids and couple of mugs of Sainsbury’s Merlot for me!

Saturday

On Saturday morning myself and my eldest daughter we went out looking for geocaches, finding three within a mile of the camp-site.The first was in an area of bog next to the site. The next one was in a field where the farmer was using a bailing machine to make hay bales. The third was in another boggy wooded area.

In the afternoon we headed out to the beach at Hillend. After parking in the car park (Costs £3 for the day) we climbed over the dunes to the beach. The beach is massive and has lots of razor shells, muscle shells and scallops. Again it was bright and sunny, but we failed to realise the extent of the winds coming from the south. Loads of people were out flying kites and most people had set up sun tents or wind breaks. We failed to bring any of these items so got sand blasted!

When the children had collected their shells, made enough sand castles and finished paddling in the sea we returned to the car and explored some of the other places nearby. We drove back through Llangennith and up towards Llanmadoc, past the campsite. We then went through Cheriton and back to Llanridian. We had arranged to meet friends of ours at the campsite later that day. We went out for an evening meal at the Greyhound Inn in Oldwalls near Llanridian. The food was excellent and they brew their own beer too. Gower Gold is an excellent pint.

Our friends camped with us on Saturday night. The night was really rough with the high winds we encountered on the beach picking up again. There were significant storms with thunder and lightning. I was glad of the Royal Hampton’s thich steel poles and that I had fully guyed out the tent.

Sunday

We awoke on Sunday to find the tent still in one piece. I went out and re-tensioned the guy-lines and we got ready to go out. The plan was to visit a farm park some distance away in Pembrokshire with the logic that we were already half way there. We took the road through Bury Port, stopping off at the Tesco for picnic supplies.

We had a great day at the Folly Farm and returned to camp at about 2000 that night.

Monday

On Monday morning a heavy drizzle of rain set in. It there’s one thing I hate more than pitching a tent in the rain, its striking (taking down) a tent in the rain. We have little room at home to dry the tent fabric out and it just no pleasant to pack the trailer and car in a hurry in bad weather. We had booked a late departure from the site, so had until 2000 that night to pack up. I planned to leave it as late as possible in the hope that the tend would dry out as much as possible.

I decided to brave the weather and go for a walk around an area near the camp site called Ryer’s Down. This is a national trust area that also boasts seven geocaches. We had found two of the caches on Saturday morning. The others were probably too far for the kids to walk and in any case they were playing with their new friends while my wife read and kept a watchful eye.

I climbed the hill on well-defined paths through bracken, descending the other side’s steep slope. I quickly found the next cache and moved on down a small lane past a farm. Up ahead I could see several cows blocking the lane along with several men with land rovers and tractors working on clearing the cattle grid. After a brief chat they moved the cows out-of-the-way and I continued on. Consulting my GPS, I realised I have gone past the point where the next cache was hidden. Due to the number of “muggles” (both bovine and human) I could not go back and search for it, so I carried on back up the hill again. Back on top, the rain continued but I managed to find the next caches in the series before returning to the camp site.

After lunch, we started to pack up the inside of the tent and the weather gradually improved until it was as hot and sunny as in previous days. I managed to shake most of the water from the tent and the sun did a good job of drying the rest out. We packed up the tent, discovering a big puddle of water beneath the tent’s footprint.

I lit a disposable barbecue and we had an evening meal of cheeseburgers and hot-dogs before setting off home in the car.

Carry on Abroad! – Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Due to a mix of work commitments and a 2 week family holiday to Spain’s Balearic Island of Ibiza,  this is my first post in a while. I wondered if I should take some gadgets on holiday to keep my tyres on the information superhighway (does anyone use that term any-more?) and decided against it. I did make sure the MP3 player was loaded with tunes and I had a stock of books. Likewise one of the Aikido Sensei suggested finding a few sessions while away and, I did research it but there were none close to my work or holiday destinations.

Certainly, I planned to do some SCUBA diving on my vacation. I have an instructor rating with the British Sub Aqua Club and dived to depths regarded as a safe maximum for open-circuit, compressed air divers. I’ve been narc’d both positively and negatively feeling euphoria and panic. However, it has been about 2 years since I last did a serious dive and I felt a mixture of apprehension, calm and excitement about it. Usually I would have carried out a couple of prep-dives in UK by mid-march, including an equipment shakedown in the pool. I had dived with the same centre many times over the last 6 years and was at home with the kit, staff, boat and most of their dive sites which vary from wrecks and caves to picturesque rocky reefs.Usually I do about 4 dives over 2 days on a 2 week vacation.

I selected a dive trip to an island near Formenterra, La Espardell. There is a dive site that is “muy interestante” that I have dived before known as La Plataforma. It was a fish farm that collapsed in a storm and resembles and oil rig. Lots of columns concrete sheets make a good home for Baracuda. The site is not marked at the surface, but has a submerged buoy at about 6 metres. The sea-bed is at about 30-35m depending on the season. The Mediterranean tidal like the seas around the UK, so its fairly easy diving – no slack water windows!

On the morning of my dive, I had an early breakfast, packed my kit and waited for the pick-up. While waiting I turned on my dive computer to be greeted with an error code. I managed to borrow one at the dive centre, got changed and headed for the boat. During the ride out I got acquainted with my buddy for the day – a swimming pool installer from Leicester. As usual, the boat was filled with a mix of nationalities – Spanish, French, German, Dutch and American father/son pair. We were the only Brits.

On arrival at the site, one of the guides took a line to the submerged buoy, anchoring the bow of the dive boat. We carried out our buddy check and were ready to go. The Dive Marshal gave us the nod and we hit he water with a backwards roll. I could hear one of the dive guides talking the American father and son pair through their buddy check as I asked one of the surface cover guys to pass my camera that I had left in one of the fresh water buckets.

Due to some clearing problems I took a little longer to reach depth than I would have liked. From then on, the dive was a good one, but with less Barracuda than my last visit. The columns and concrete panels were spectacular. I suffered a slight reverse block on the way up, carried out a safety stop at 6m and swam to the spine ladder at the aft of the boat. I have to admit, I felt a bit cold towards the end of the dive. Once on board, it only took a few minutes before we were off to the second site – a reef called “Llado sur”.

Following safe diving practice, the second dive was a maximum depth  of 20m. I suffered the same embarrassing clearing problem  as the previous dive and ended up making a slow descent. My buddy and I decided that we would stay in the 10-15m range as we both felt cold on the last dive. Again, the dive itself was great. Quite a bit to see and we all did the swim-through the split in the centre of the pinnacle.

No reverse block this time, but it took a few minutes for my ears to settle. Back in the boat, be de-kitted and headed back to shore. After getting the kit sorted, showering and chatting to the centre owners, I ate some lunch on the beach and headed back to the hotel. The next day I ended up with a full blown case of the sniffles and had to cancel the dive trip I had booked.

Diving is only part of the fun I have abroad. I spent every day in the pool, sea or on the beach with the wife and kids. We all had a great time as usual. I took the kids on a few walks while the wife cached up on her reading. We found a few geocaches, had a trip to island capital (Eivissa), climbing to the top of Dalt Villa  and went to the funfair. The evening entertainment in the hotel was good and the kids loved the junior disco.

We hired a pedal boat from the beach one day and went out into the bay. I did a bit of swimming, and wished I had brought my snorkelling kit.  There was a great selection of marine life all within 10m of the surface. The fish obviously felt safe out in the bay, away from the tourists fishing from the rocks around the edge. I carried out a few snorkel dives, taking videos with the underwater camera and finding some cuttlebones too. I found the snorkelling very satisfying in lieu of “proper” diving.

So all-in-all, the vacation was well-earned, much enjoyed and all too soon over. Back in the UK, I switched on the work mobile and the calls and texts came rolling in. After the first day back, by holiday was but a hazy memory!

I’ll update the post with some photos soon.

Geocache used in the Geocaching sport. Loonse ...

Example Geocache  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Took the kids for a short walk on Sunday afternoon.  The weather was pretty good and I hadn’t had chance to go out with them much this year. We had a great time in a lovely place on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park.  The lakes had plenty of ducks there were lots of people out on horses. The picnic food was well received and we found a geocache before returning to the start for the kids to explore the playground.

I went for a walk today in the Brecon Beacons National Park. I started at Pencelli and quickly found a sign marked “To the hill” which sounded promising. The footpath was not marked on my map, but it was clearly signposted as a permitted route. I climbed up a steep incline surrounded by sheep and lambs. Soon I was out of the farm and carried on up a steep track which wound up into some forestry. I emerged in rough pastureland which was hot and dry underfoot. I checked the compass to get my bearings as there were limited land marks visible and its very easy to disorient yourself in tree cover. I started up towards a little lump in the ground know as “Bryn” (or hill in Welsh). I have walked a lot in the Beacons, but not had never tried this route. I had heard that it was a hard slog up but it didn’t look so bad on the map…

Langorse Lake seen from the foot of the Bryn
The approach to the Bryn (560m) and Pen-y-Fan in the back ground (886m)



After a little while I arrived at the foot of the Bryn and started ascending. I paused to look at the view – there were plenty of land marks now! Llangorse Lake, Sugarloaf, Brecon town were all spread out in a wide panorama. Part of the plan was to visit the geocache on the Bryn, so after ascending further I checked the GPS for its location. This proved an easy find with the main challenge being keeping the content in one place on the windy top. I set out dressed in a wicking tee-shirt and quickly pulled out a wind shirt while I was on the exposed top.After signing the log book, I continued on up the path known as Gist Wen. 

Pen-y-Fan and Cribyn viewed from Gist Wen

The main ascent to the Bwlch stretch out before me. I could see the ascending path spiralling up in the distance. Around three-quarters of the way up I came across a youth group having lunch. I stopped to have a quick chat with them before continuing on. I had visited the bwlch area a few times in the past. It’s like a cross roads between the tracks that wun from from Pencelli in the North to Craig y Fan Ddu in the south and from from the main central beacons ridge to the West, over the formidable Carn Pica to Aber Village in the East.

I decided to visit a WW2 crash site on Waun Rhydd. The wreckage of the Canadian Wellington Bomber is clearly visible in two piles. There is a cairn, memorial and an arch built from stones in the area. I ate some lunch nearby.


Retracing my steps to the bwlch, I followed the path around towards Fan y Big. I met several other youth groups all doing Duke of Edinburgh practise expeditions or training. The weather was glorious and there were exceptional views of the surrounding area.


Unfortunately, due to other commitments, I had started late (at about 11:30) and needed to finish earlier than the fantastic daylight would let me stop out, so at about 16:15, I decided to head back to my start point. I made excellent time even though I often find downhill walks more of a strain on my legs then up-hill. I was a little concerned about finding the entry point to the forestry from the open hill. I had logged the point on the GPS and was soon heading down the forest tracks. Near the end of the walk, a group of about 20 emerged from a public right of way to my right. Another outward bound youth group.

I reached the start point and reflected on my walk. There is much to gain with an “Alpine Start”. Can’t wait until the next opportunity!

“Someone told me there’s a grace that leads you straight from place to place; And you always leave the road behind you; You don’t need your horses shod, just a dowser and his rod”, The Journeyman’s Grace, TraditionalI called up a friend of mine and asked if he wanted to go for a walk. We hadn’t been out for a walk together in about 10 years but had originally done our expedition leadership training together. He said he was up for it and suggested the route. We met up for a pint, discussed it and set the date. The weekend before he said we would have a couple of others along for the walk too, which was fine by me.

On the morning of the allotted day, he picked me up as arranged and we drove to the start point at the Upper Neuadd Reservoir which is south of the Brecon Beacons central ridge. I checked the weather before we left and the forecast was “patches of dense hill fog below 600m with clear summits and a temperature of 5 degrees above 600m”. I prepared and for this by wearing a long wicking shirt and a Buffalo insulated Pertex top.

We were then joined by our two companions for the walk, who were experienced and fit so we set off. The day was outstanding in terms of clarity and weather, despite the weather warning that was in place for hill fog.  The mountains around us were reflected wonderfully in the still waters of the reservoir.

The central ridge viewed from Upper Neuadd Reservoir
Craig Gwaun Taf and Pen-y-Fan viewed from Upper Neuadd Reservoir

We started the first ascent from about 450m to the western ridge crest called Graig Fan Ddu (640m). This got everybody warmed up, and included the obligatory false summit with a scramble at the end before we made the top. Once at the top, we stopped for a couple of minutes to admire the view out over the eastern ridge (Tor Glass) and could see a thick bank of the afore mentioned hill fog almost obscuring Sugar Loaf in the distance.

View from Grag Fan Ddu over to Tor Glas and Sugar Loaf in the distance peaking through the fog

I had planned to bag a couple of Geocaches on route and explained this to my companions. They showed polite interest, but I could tell they were not too bothered! On a couple of occasions I announced “Just going to take a look over here…”. bagging “BBC6 Fire and Ice”, SWMCC 3 and Tommy Jones before we reached Corn Ddu (at 873m). We didn;t follow the route to Y Garn and Tommy Jones’ Obelisk, but headed to the main event – Pen-y-Fan (866m). Picked up another cache (SWMCC4) before heading off to Cribyn (795m). Descending from Cribyn towards the Bwlch ar y Fan (599m) we came across two identically dressed people coming the other way at high speed. One carried a large antenna and the other an array of radio equipment. The “squelched” their way past us with a nod before ascending Cribyn and proceeding to set up their kit. On arriving at the Bwlch, we faced a choice of heading up to the diving board on Fan-y-Big (719m), or heading back to the start point via the drovers track along Tor Glas. Looking to the North, there was a huge cloud covering Brecon.

Looking North towards Brecon from the Bwlch ar y fan

The team decided that discretion was the better part of valour and headed down of the hill. I then started kicking myself that I had missed a few “Virtual Caches” that required measurement, picture taking, etc. Still, that’s another excuse to return…