Recent trip reports

There were some great weekend trips in the first three months of 2020, followed by a long coronavirus dictated pause, until we were at long last able to resume weekends away in July.

1. Anglesey (August 2020)

And so began our first socially-distanced bunkhouse weekend. Nine of us convened at Anglesey Outdoors on Holy Island - an island off an island (the isle of Anglesey).

Saturday morning Judith led the group on a circuit north of the bunkhouse circling the Holyhead Mountain (all of 220m) over to Holyhead and back. We had a mixture of sunshine and cloud but it was very windy keeping temperatures down to an unseasonal 14C. On the way, we met Hebridean Black Sheep, tourists come to look at the South Stack lighthouse and climbers abseiling down the North Stack. Visibility was clear and we reckoned we could see the Isle of Man to the North, the Lleyn Peninsular to the South and just about make out the coast of Ireland to the West. We reached Holyhead mid-afternoon - a town full of decay and bored teenagers. Although we did decamp to a cafe for cupcakes and scones when rain threatened.

Sunday morning Cathy led us on a circuit south of the bunkhouse through the little seaside town of Trearddur where we just missed the local lifeboat being launched on a callout. We then hacked inland south-west across the island getting lost through caravan parks and bog. Catriona had bought along her little book of wildflowers and we spotted vetch, yarrow, red campion, broom, sloes, honeysuckle berries, the inevitable blackberries and sea tomatoes.

Once we reached the coast again we were rewarded with the most magnificent views of Snowdonia. We then followed the coast path back to Trearddur and our bunkhouse. We passed beaches with paddle boarders and kayakers with Mags and Kylie disappearing for a paddle (although only up to their knees). Susan was on a mission to have ice-cream which we eventually found in Trearddur.

Judith, Catriona and Cathy were staying on for another night and Nina joined them for a walk before her train back to London. We headed north to the main island of Anglesey starting at Church Bay and following a stretch of coastal path owned by the National Trust north to Carmel Head. The day was shimmering and glorious, full of snorting ravens, basking seals, little fluffy clouds and lapping waves.

I think I speak for us all when I say how happy we were to be back in a bunkhouse again and out in the wilds!

walk pictureAuthor: Cathy C

2. Exmoor camping weekend (August 2020)

Catriona and Judith arrived a day early and Storm Ellen lived up to its billing with spectacular thunderstorms and violent winds.

On Friday evening, we all enjoyed excellent food, drink and conversation at the Royal Oak at Winsford.

On Saturday, we did a circular walk from Halse Farm Campsite, up Winsford Hill, to Tarr Steps and then up the river to WIthypool for an excellent cream tea at around 3pm. We walked up to a high point for a beautiful view and then split into two groups. The early group had a lovely walk over the moors and then up to some higher ground with lovely views and then down to the campsite. The other group finished with a steep climb round the dramatic Punch Bowl onto Winsford Hill. We had another excellent evening at the Royal Oak and then returned to the campsite for a night of rain. At least it did stop when we were packing up.

On Sunday, we started at Luxborough Kingsbridge. We walked up to Withycombe Common, through woods and back to the car with beautiful views of the coast at the Minehead and Watchet area and further towards Weston Super Mare. It was a perfect way to end a wonderful weekend.

walk pictureAuthor: Viv P

3. Yorkshire Dales (August 2020)

At last we were heading for the hills! Proper, Northern, hills with heather-clad slopes, stone barns and rivers with rocks in them. What better reintroduction than the Yorkshire Dales.

Staying at the Premier Inn gave unaccustomed luxury, with real beds and a bath, and an adjoining restaurant only a step away for breakfast and dinner. Nice cool weather to boot (don't often say that!) and the rain held off - just - for the whole weekend.

On Saturday Damaris and Margaret had a relaxing mid-morning start for a walk from Appletreewick, but the rest of us were out bright and early, striking north up the Pennine Way, which took us over airy upland with superb views of the distant fells around Malham. We then branched off to loop back to Gargrave over rolling green hills and along river banks, where we had the company of a heron for a while. There was a pub on the agenda - a pub with a difference, as it had been transformed into a Michelin restaurant. Despite our rugged appearance, they couldn't have been more welcoming.

Next day, Damaris and Margaret walked above Kilnsey, hoping for a view of the famous crag. Lured by the previous day's view of the Malham fells, Judith headed further that way and, after lunch at lonely Malham tarn, set off to return via Gordale Scar only to be forced back by the amount of water on the scramble down, with the result she ended up doing 20 miles.

Julie and Karen set off along the canal path to Skipton and enjoyed a lovely walk, with friendly people on bikes and families on boats, operating locks and bridges, to entertain them on the way.

David W led the remaining six south along the Pennine way and the Leeds and Liverpool canal, over an ancient Roman road and slightly newer disused railway to a cosy pub in Carleton in Craven, before a path over rarely trodden fields took them back to Gargrave.

On Monday morning, Cathy and Judith walked more of the same area, while some started early for the long journey home (Jim, Viv and June via Derbyshire) and others sampled the fleshpots of Skipton first.

walk pictureAuthor: Judith B

4. North Wessex Downs AONB (July 2020)

Seven Ibexers assembled at the Newbury Tot Travelodge for the first weekend event to be held since lockdown. This was the first time that a Travelodge had been a weekend base.

On Saturday morning we set out on a 16 mile invigorating anticlockwise circular route of the North Wessex Downs AONB, which had been carefully crafted by David W. The route skirted Old Burghclere, Watership Down, Kingsclere and Echinswell. It took us along disused railway lines, downs, and training gallops and included ascending to a trig high point of some 230 metres before a judiciously timed lunch-stop on the descent. There had been the occasional shower in the morning and it became progressively wetter throughout the course of the afternoon. At that point, it was decided to support local business by taking shelter in the Star Inn in Kingsclere.

The next day dawned brighter; there were sunny intervals with only the occasional drizzle. Those familiar with the TV serial Downton Abbey would have recognised Highclere Castle which was included in the bracing eight mile Sunday walk. There were some fantastic views of the castle and the parkland offered some great vistas with an in-flight hawk being observed. After exiting the park, the Group struck out into the North Wessex Downs once again, reaching Old Burghclere. The trail took us through green, rain-freshened valleys, woods and fields.

It had been great to be out walking in the verdant countryside once again after lockdown.

walk pictureAuthor: Stephen J

5. Strong winds in Snowdonia (March 2020)

Over a glorious Friday afternoon we made our way West to Glan Dena, the wonderfully equipped MAM bunkhouse in the Ogwen valley. It was still sunny when I arrived in the late afternoon although a stiffening wind blew cats paws along Llyn Ogwen and promised worse to come; the forecast for the weekend was wild.

Two walks were planned for Saturday: John J-M to lead a party up Cwm Tryfan to take in Gylder Fach and then retreat to Capel Curig along the ridge and return home at low level along a the Nany Y Benglog track; David W set his route up Pen Y Ole Wen and on to Carnedd Dafydd before dropping down to a Bethesda pub and then back to base.

n the Glyderau party we made quick progress up a reasonably sheltered Cwm Tryfan but needed to kick steps to climb out of the cwm, after which we experienced the full might of the gale. I was very glad we decided to save Glyder Fach for another day as it was tough enough tackling the broad ridge down with the wind and rain at our backs. In challenging conditions for navigation, John steered us round and our mood lifted as we dropped out of the cloud with a view over Capel Curig as we ate lunch.

The Carnedd Daffydd walk was up onto Pen Yr Ole Wen, with a short easy scramble en route, then in mist and strong, gusty winds on to Carnedd Daffydd, where we sheltered for a brief snack, then down in mist, wind and rain towards Bethesda via the Mynydd Du ridge. Fine navigation work by David W got us to Bethesda where we split, one party going to a pub, whilst four of us battled strong winds along Nant Francon to Ogwen Cottage then back to Glan Dena. The others followed a little after, but were caught by late rain.

A much depleted group made it out for a walk on the Sunday up our second Foel Goch of the weekend (this one in The Arenigs), it was good to stretch out the legs after the previous day's activity prior to the long journey home.

walk pictureAuthor: Ben N

6. Three Corbett attempts - Lochearnhead (February 2020)

The plan for the long weekend was for us (David, Susan, Karen, Nina, Tony) to fly up on Thursday evening staying at Holiday Inn Glasgow Airport, then Friday to Sunday climb a Corbett a day staying at Clachan Lodge, Lochearnhead before returning back to Glasgow airport for flights home Sunday night.

On Friday morning we drove to Beinn Stacach. We set off with rain, crossed some boggy ground and a river before starting the ascent. As we got higher the rain became snow and underfoot soon it was very deep snow. Slow going, with daylight fading we were still about 100m short of the summit yet it have could been an hour or more walking so we had to turn back, really poor visibility by then almost white out so we relied on the GPS to safely get back down. It was dark by the time we got back to the cars.

On Saturday morning we were joined by two friends of David and Susan. The seven of us set off walking from the hotel, heading for two adjacent Corbetts, Creag Mac Ranaich and Meall an t-Seallaid. Once again as we got higher the snow thickened. For the first of the two summits you need to ascend some steep gullies between crags. We gave it a good try but as we got higher it was too steep and we couldn't find a decent route up without any protection. Getting late in the day we turned back battered by some strong winds.

The Sunday forecast was for high winds in the afternoon, so we had a change of plan and opted for Ben Ledi, which David knew had a good path to the summit. We set off in rain, with quite a lot of snow underfoot as we ascended. Still short of the ridge the wind strengthened dramatically, almost knocking people over. At final rest stop before an ascent onto the ridge we chatted to many groups who had been forced back. Unfortunately there wasn't any chance of us summiting that day.

walk pictureAuthor: Tony S

7. Night Navigation in the Black Mountains (January 2020)

First we practised a bit of pacing up and down the road outside, to the bemusement of a passing motorist, before launching ourselves into the vast darkness beyond the street lights.

We started with a steep ascent through woods, each of us peering in the torchlight at, first the map, and then the ground, to make sure we really were on the path and going the right way.

Things got hairier when we emerged onto the hillside. Our objective, a trig point about 2 km further on and off the track, seemed like an invisible needle in an impenetrably black haystack. Miraculously, we pitched up pretty close to the trig point, which we could then dimly make out on the skyline. How? By counting paces to measure the distance covered and, when we hit rough ground, using each other to 'leapfrog' (ie one of us walked 50 metres ahead on a compass bearing with the rest checking and then catching up).

The lights of Crickhowell, just about the only thing visible below the skyline, looked a long way below and the wind was biting so we moved quickly on to the next target, the corner of a wood. To make sure we didn't miss this in the dark we 'aimed off' - heading for the body of the wood and, when the trees loomed up eerily in the torchlight, following the fence along to the corner. There we snatched a hot drink and bite to eat, but by this time it was snowing, so we didn't hang about and after a bit of stumbling steeply down through rough bracken (tricky when you can't see what you're walking on) we hit the path that took us down to a road. Plain sailing from there.

We walked into the cottage to the sound of popping corks - celebration time! Not because we'd survived (though that too), it just happened to be my birthday.

walk pictureAuthor: Judith B

8. Ribblehead in the rain (January 2020)

A welcome return however to Gauber bunkhouse that Heather described in the visitor's book as "the best bunkhouse in the world" (they provide flapjacks, a wood burner and duvets).

Two walks on Saturday firstly led by Dave who took his Merry bunch on his 11 mile "Lollipop" route. Meanwhile, Heather took the rest of us on the Harry Potter express to Dent.

As the day progressed, we were assailed by 50mph gales and got utterly drenched. Waterproof trousers inflated in the wind, threatening to take us off like Mary Poppins. Every little gap then seemed to let in water with hands swimming in a pool of water at the bottom of gloves.

The Drying Room worked overtime that night and all agreed it was the wettest day ever (well, since the last wettest day ever).

Sunday dawned much more peacefully, and I led the group up Whernside.

Nine members of the group stayed over Sunday night as the trains weren't running and all agreed we should do this more often.walk pictureAuthor: Cathy C